Jerry Ravetz part 2 – Answer and explanation to my critics

Dr. Ravetz’s first posting on WUWT created quite a controversey. You can read it here:

Climategate: Plausibility and the blogosphere in the post-normal age.

Answer and explanation to my critics –

Guest post by Jerome Ravetz

Jerome Ravetz, of Oxford University in the UK.

First, I want to apologise for my long silence.  I have been overwhelmed by the volume and quality of the comments on this and other blogs, and just keeping up with them, while writing and also meeting other urgent commitments, has been a full time job.  I had nearly completed this when my daytime job ran into emergency phase, and I was delayed a bit further.  I am not at all afraid to put my point of view and see what happens.

The next thing to say is that I believe that my critics and I are fundamentally on the same side.  The basic motivation for our design of post-normal science was to help maintain the health and integrity of science under the new conditions in which it now operates.  I believe that my critics share this concern.  I can learn from them how I might have expressed myself better, or even how I have been just wrong in this case as sometimes in the past, or perhaps that our disagreements on practical issues are just too deep to be bridged.

Since my history is relevant to the debate, let me make a few very brief points.  I did grow up in a left-wing household in the ‘thirties, and I recall that it took about a decade, from my teens onwards, for me to make a complete sorting out of political Marxism.  Remembering this process gives me perspective on disagreements that take place now; both I and my interlocutor are (hopefully) moving and learning even if we do not show it.  A very big event for me was attending Swarthmore College, where I was exposed to the Quaker approach to living and discussing, and also to the way of non-violence.  As with other influences, this one took decades to mature.  I went to Cambridge, England and did a Ph.D in pure mathematics, settled here and later seized the chance to move to Leeds to study and teach the History and Philosophy of Science.

Even as I was getting started on that, I developed a critical stance.  For me, ‘nuclear deterrence’ was not only immoral, but also crazy, as it involved calculating with the incalculable – the Theory of Games with ten-megadeath payoffs.  I was pleased to learn later that after the Cuba crisis the military came to the same conclusion, and created a new doctrine Mutually Assured Destruction.  Also, I wrote about the ‘Mohole scandal’, an early case of the corruption of Big Science.  All those reflections, among others, led to my big book, Scientific Knowledge and its Social Problems.  I was concerned with the way that ‘academic science’ was giving way to ‘industrialised science’, and was thereby vulnerable to new corrupting influences.  My solution then was a very sketchy ‘critical science’, cast very much in ’60’s terms.  My radical friends were very cross that I concluded the book, not with a call to militancy, but with a prayer about cultivating truth in charity, by Francis Bacon.

I was very aware of the new currents in the philosophy of science, and knew most of the big players.  As many saw it, the inherited philosophy of science as Truth could no longer be sustained.  Indeed, once Einstein had (in the general interpretation) shown that Newton was wrong about space, no scientific statement could be assumed to be free of error.  Popper tried to rescue Science by seeing it as essentially an activity of criticism and self-criticism, on the model of a free society.  But Kuhn was the philosopher of industrialised science, and his ‘normal science’ was an activity of myopic ‘puzzle-solving’ within a dogmatically imposed paradigm.  He was personally very uncomfortable with this unflattering picture, but that’s the way he saw it.  I understood ‘normal science’ as a picture of what happens in science education, where almost all students learn by precept that for every problem there is just one and only one solution, expressed to several significant digits.  I now realise that I have made a very big mistake in assuming that my readers on the blogs understand this about Kuhn; mainly they assume that ‘normal’ science is something that reflective, self-critical scientists like themselves do.  So that is the first cause of disagreement, and also a reminder to me that the term ‘post-normal’ might itself be obsolescent.  Silvio Funtowicz and I worked with titles for several years, and finally chose this one as the least problematic – possibly another mistake!

Before we started on PNS, I spent some time with Silvio on the management of uncertainty, which led to our joint book Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy.  We were convinced that in spite of the universal assumption that quantitative science has solved its problems of uncertainty, in fact there is very widespread confusion and incompetence.  We designed a notational system, NUSAP, whereby these qualitative aspects of quantitative information could be effectively expressed.  We also pondered on the question, now that Truth is no longer effective in science (unless we accept paradoxes like ‘incorrect truths’ or ‘false facts’), what is there as a regulative principle?  The answer is Quality, which itself is a very complex attribute.  I confess that we did not spend much time, as I see it now not enough, in explaining this substitution of Quality for Truth.  It is all too easy to see it as a betrayal of the ideals of science, and opening the door to political and other corruptions.  One reason for this error is that by that time I was leaving academe, and lost the contact with students that would have tested my ideas against their experience.  The issue is discussed in an article by Silvio Funtowicz, ‘Peer Review and Quality Control’ in the International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Science’ – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/referenceworks/0080430767.  I have also done a condensed sketch of my ideas on Quality, that will be posted here.

It should be on the record that I always stayed clear of arguments in which Science in general came under attack.  That happened in the ‘Science Wars’ debates, when the social-scientists seemed to be saying that science was nothing-but constructions, or negotiations, or what have you.  Every now and then I see it mentioned that I took part in those debates, but that is a complete error.  For me, the attack was misconceived and counterproductive.  For me the biggest issue is ‘normal scientists’ doing research that is competent in its own terms, but whose ‘unintended consequences’ can be harmful or indeed total.  I am also concerned with the maintenance of quality in science; this is by no means assured, and both the Credit Crunch and Climategate show what happens when quality-assurance fails.

I would be very grateful for a favour from my more severe                                                  critics.  This would be to buy a copy of my inexpensive new book, A No-Nonsense Guide to Science and examine it.  They will plenty of critical material there.  I point to the dangers of what I call ‘mega-science’ and the new technologies that are uncontrolled and perhaps uncontrollable: GRAINN or genomics, robotics, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and nanotechnology.  I also cast doubt on the certitudes of science, pointing out some important errors, some famous and some suppressed from history. I cite the Quaker principle, ‘never forget that you might be wrong’.  At the end I produce a questionnaire for students who are wondering whether a career in science will realise their ideals.  I am sure that some more conservative people in that community find the book subversive; I wonder whether my present critics will find that it encourages malign external influences (governments, businesses or demagogues) to meddle with science.

Then came the notorious Post-Normal Science, which until now has not really   attracted very much attention in the mainstream.  I’ve met people who found it an inspiration and liberation, as it enabled them to recognise the deep uncertainties in their scientific work that colleagues wished to ignore.  Its core is the mantram, ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’.  We are not saying that this is a desirable, natural or normal state for science.  We place it by means of a diagram, a quadrant-rainbow with two axes.  These are ‘systems uncertainties’ and ‘decision stakes’.  When both are small, we have ‘applied science’, which must be the vast majority of scientific work in keeping civilisation running.  When either is medium, we have ‘professional consultancy’, like the surgeon or consultant engineer.  The basic insight of PNS is that there is another zone, where either attribute is large.

My favourite example for PNS is a dam, discussed in the ‘Pittsburgh’ lecture on my website.  The principle of the dam, making hydro-electricity, is a matter of science.  The design of the dam, coping with the uncertainties of nature and making design decisions about its operation, is a matter of professional consultancy.  For PNS, I imagined that the lake as originally planned would possibly drown a part of a Civil War battlefield cemetery, a most sacred site in America. The boundaries of the cemetery were indistinct, and the loss of water storage would be costly.  This was an issue where neither science, nor professions were adequate for a solution.  The thought of putting Party hacks or eco-activists in charge of explaining the science of the dam or crreating its design, was very far from my intention.  As it happens, dams can be intensely political indeed, as some peoples’ lands and homes are drowned so that others far away can benefit from their products; should we leave all those decisions to scientists and engineers?

Of course there was a political implication in all this, although PNS was presented as a methodology.   We were sensitive to the experience of laypersons who were deemed incompetent and illegitimate by the professionals who controlled the problems and solutions.  Lyme Disease is a good early example of this.  The book Late Lessons from Early Warnings, published by the European Environment Agency has a whole set of examples from all over.  Now ‘participation’ is enshrined as a principle of policy formation in the European Union, and in many special policy areas in the USA.

In retrospect, it could be said that PNS, and in particular the ‘Extended Peer  Community’ was conceived in a left-wing framework, enabling little people to fight scientific battles against big bad corporations (state and private) and professional elites.  As I look at it from the perspective of Climategate, it’s quite possible that that particular design is less well adapted to this present case, although I found it very fruitful to imagine the blogosphere (including, especially, wattsupwiththat) as a valuable example of an Extended Peer Community.  However, let me proceed a bit further.  There are two other conceptions that say similar things.  One is the doctrine of ‘wicked problems’, that was conceived by planners who were disillusioned with the naïve scientism of the ’60’s.  The other is the theory of the ‘honest broker’ developed by Roger Pielke Jr.  He starts from the assumption that what scientists do in the policy process is not simply ‘telling Truth to Power’.  Rather, they are offering information or advice which must be tailored to the requirements of the client.  In that sense they are acting as consultants.  His target is the ‘stealth advocates’, who tell the world and perhaps themselves that they are merely stating scientific truths while they are actually arguing for a particular agenda.  We should notice that in this case a naïve philosophy of science, that of the scientist as discovering and stating simple Truth, actually deprives scientists of self-understanding, and thereby makes them more vulnerable to the corruption of the good.

That brings me more or less up to date.  Let me deal with the political background first, for on this there may be irreconcilable differences that are best brought out into the open.  If my own political bias has led me into trouble, I have the consolation that others are not immune.  Thus we can understand much of background to the Credit Crunch (which may soon destroy us all) when we learn that Alan Greenspan was a devotee of Ayn Rand, and therefore believed, until it was too late, that the state is evil and the markets perfect.  As to myself, my baggage is well known.  The hostile historical analysis in ScientistForTruth (http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/)is excellent, really recommended reading.  It also provides a compelling example of the risks of explanation of a doctrine by others.  There is a quote from a colleague of mine about PNS which seems implicitly to reduce scientists to being merely one actor among many in the extended peer community.  It has them throwing away Truth in favour of Quality, where this concept is not explained.  I can well understand a critic interpreting this as an invitation to mob rule in science.  I should really have made it emphatically clear that by ‘extended peer community’ I never meant ‘replacement peer community’ – but it’s too late now!

Again, I take for granted that ‘applied science’ is the basic, common and essential form of activity for our civilization to persist, and that PNS performs an essential regulatory function where necessary, under those special conditions.  And I have thought a lot about quality and its protection.  I could easily edit that text and ensure that my own meaning (which I’m sure is shared by my colleague) is conveyed. It is a cautionary tale to me, how a doctrine goes out of control when it is broadcast. The same thing has happened with Mike Hulme, and by association with him I have been denounced as a Marxist enemy of science by James Delingpole in The Spectator on 20th of February.  It’s ironic that I got my real breakthrough in understanding what is going on with Climategate when I identified all the critics on their blogs (and especially this one) as the new Extended Peer Community in this post-normal science situation.  For they have been doing the job of quality-assurance that, in some cases at least, was not done by the mainstream.  They might have to decide now whether they really want to belong to an Extended Peer Community, and thereby validate post-normal science.

I am well familiar with the abuses of science by big government and big business; I confess that I find it difficult to imagine how environmentalists can wreak the same sort of damage.  Some may believe that Al Gore is fronting for the Trilateral Commission, the UN, the Bilderburgers or the Illuminati, but that doesn’t fit with my experience of power-politics.  And, quite interestingly I now more clearly see my own bias, or presumption of plausibility, towards the Green side.  The evidence for that is that while I found most of Michael Crichton’s novels quite illuminating, I never bothered to read Fear. It was simply implausible to me that environmentalists would create a  terror attack.  And plausibility goes a long way in conditioning expectations and even perceptions.  Live and learn.

Another important difference between my critics and myself, I now realise, is that for them the A(C)GW issue is not post-normal at all.  They have been certain for some time that the core argument for A(C)GW is based on scientific fraud.  This does not deny that much or most of climate science, recognising and coping with deep scientific uncertainties, is sound; it’s the policy-relevant core, that we might call ‘global-warming science’ that is perceived as rotten.  So all of my methodologising, Mike Hulme’s sociologising, even Roger Pielke Jr.’s querying, is quite beside the point.  The damning facts are in, and they are either recognised or denied.  On that basis it is easy to suppose that I am a sophisticated apologist for the enemy, and that all my uncertainty-mongering effectively provides a licence for those bad people to dissemble and deceive.

Some more personal history might be useful here.  I have no expertise in climate science, and so I was reluctant to meddle.  But I have been involved in the critical analysis of models of all sorts, and quite early on I good reason to suspect that the GCMs offered little basis for certainty of prediction.  I also became aware of the hype and over-selling.  A couple of years ago I came to the conclusion that this campaign would run into trouble, and I began to think about research projects that might be useful.  One of them is now up for a grant; it’s an analysis of scientific disagreement, designed to bring together opponents and open the way to nonviolent communication.  But it was totally implausible to me that the leading UK scientists were either gullible or complicit in a serious fraud at the core of the enterprise.  Even when I heard about M&M and the hockey stick scandal, I didn’t connect that dot with the others.  There’s a confession for you!  Jerry Ravetz, arch-critical-scientist, suckered by the A(C)GW con for years on end.  That really shows the power of plausibility.  Even now I’m not all the way with my critics; the distinction between incompetence and blundering self-protection on the one hand (plus agenda-driven hype) and self-conscious scientific conspiracy on the other, may still be dividing us.

All through my chequered political career I have lived with the fact that wherever you stand, you always have more radical colleagues.  In religion, achieving inter-faith harmony is child’s play compared to intra-faith harmony, and the same holds for the  politics of dissent.  I was impressed and amused, when my call for courtesy and non-violence in the Guardian blog provoked the most hysterical denunciations anywhere.  I can understand this; I’ve been angry at false comrades in my time.  But if we all calm down, we might look together at the burden of the criticisms of PNS and see whether they are fatal.

First, there is the discovery that Steve Schneider used my 1986 paper as justification for his nefarious doctrine.  On that there are several things to say.  First, as Roger ‘tallbloke’ has observed (See tallbloke 23:39:23), the text where this exposure is made, is itself very flawed indeed.  Bits are pasted together, and one passage seems to me to have been invented for the occasion.  As to Schneider himself, one of the blogs carrying the infamous quote provides a link to a background text.  (See http://www.solopassion.com/node/5841)  There Schneider explains that the passage as quoted was shorn of a crucial qualifying sentence, and that in all his writings he has condemned just the sort of thing that the modified quote is supposed to justify.  Finally, the passage does give a reference to my article, which was a philosophical excursion on the theme ‘Usable knowledge, usable ignorance’.  This was presented at a conference intended to lay the foundations of a unified global climate science; I was concerned to remind participants that treating the global ecosystem like something on the lab bench was doomed to failure.  I should say that the reactions to the essay varied from incomprehension to outrage; some felt that I was Attacking Science, as usual.

As to Schneider himself, as it happens I have never met him, although we exchanged emails once when I refereed a paper for his journal.  The infamous quote can be read as a licence to cheat, but also as practical wisdom.  Part of the motivation for PNS was our appreciation that science advisors must sometimes cope with extreme uncertainty, that is quite unwelcome to their clients in the policy process.  The scientists could be asked to advise on how high to build future flood barriers, or how many fish of a particular stock to allow to be caught, or how many doses of vaccine to stock up for a possible epidemic.  ‘Normal science’ with hard numbers and tight error-bars gets us nowhere here.  Even to state the uncertainties is not a simple task, for the clients will interpret them their own way.  So the task of being both honest and effective even in that technical context is not trivial; and that is what Schneider is addressing.

In that connection I must disagree with some critics on one important point.  They believe that a permission for the dishonest tactics of global-warming science was made in that famous Schneider-Ravetz quote, and so we are responsible for all their sins.  Regardless of how that is interpreted, it is really quite unrealistic to imagine that a single quote, that was not even diffused as guidance, could be so influential.  Unfortunately, shoddy research and exaggerated claims are not restricted to global-warming science.  They are recognised as a serious problem in pharmacological and biomedical fields.  Do my critics suppose that somehow the word got through to all those other scientists, that two authorities had given the OK to such practices and so now we can go ahead?  And that all those who perverted science before the 1980s had somehow achieved a telepathic anticipation of the Schneider-Ravetz doctrine?  I have no acquaintance with the climate-warming scientists, but there is nothing in the leaked emails to indicate that they needed our supposed doctrines or anyone else’s to justify their practices.  So while it is an arguable (although incorrect) point that PNS justifies corrupted science, and perhaps could encourage it in the future, to blame me and Schneider for what happened in this case rests on a serious misconception of how ideas have an influence.

Then there is the more general political point, whether my ex-Marxist congenital green radicalism opens the way to new corruptions of science, be they from dictators or from demagogues.  I happen to know something about radical critiques of science, be they from the conservative side (starting with Aristophanes) or from the populist side (as Marat in the French Revolution and Lysenko) or just plain authoritarian (the Church against Galileo, or Aryan or Proletarian science).  And of course the great lesson of history is that it all depends.  In my old book I made a caution about what I then called ‘critical science’, citing the changes that Arthur Miller made in his edition of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People, in order that Dr. Stockman could be a worthy victim of McCarthyism rather than a self-deluded failed demagogue.  I may have guessed wrong on occasion, but at least I knew the score about the possible corruptions of science from all sides.

I must finally make a point about style of debate.  In my Guardian piece I called for courtesy in debate.  To some, this might identify me as a wimp.  Let me put the point more strongly, and use the concept ‘diss’.  Our language has been enriched by this verb, an abbreviation of ‘disrespect’, itself new in the language as a verb.  It comes from the culture of street gangs, and it means to humiliate someone and thereby to provoke rage and violence.  I have already made it plain that my sharpest critic has treated me with courtesy and respect, and his arguments have been very valuable to me.  The other main critic, by contrast, has argued that nearly all my productions have been either vacuous or malign, and that I am morally defective as well.  I feel that he has dissed me, and although I would like to reply to his points, I believe that that would only produce more dissing.  I regretfully conclude that there is no possibility of dialogue between us at present.

In conclusion, I should declare an interest.  My deepest concern is with the situation of science in modern civilisation.  Without something that we call ‘public trust’, it would be in big trouble.  What will happen as a result of Climategate?  As a philosopher, I find that to be the big question for me.

Well, there I am.  Thanks again to all my critics for making me think hard about me.  I hope it has been useful to you.  And thanks to Anthony Watts for posting me at the outset, and for giving me so much space now.

Answer and explanation to my critics –

Jerome Ravetz

First, I want to apologise for my long silence.  I have been overwhelmed by the volume and quality of the comments on this and other blogs, and just keeping up with them, while writing and also meeting other urgent commitments, has been a full time job.  I had nearly completed this when my daytime job ran into emergency phase, and I was delayed a bit further.  I am not at all afraid to put my point of view and see what happens.

The next thing to say is that I believe that my critics and I are fundamentally on the same side.  The basic motivation for our design of post-normal science was to help maintain the health and integrity of science under the new conditions in which it now operates.  I believe that my critics share this concern.  I can learn from them how I might have expressed myself better, or even how I have been just wrong in this case as sometimes in the past, or perhaps that our disagreements on practical issues are just too deep to be bridged.

Since my history is relevant to the debate, let me make a few very brief points.  I did grow up in a left-wing household in the ‘thirties, and I recall that it took about a decade, from my teens onwards, for me to make a complete sorting out of political Marxism.  Remembering this process gives me perspective on disagreements that take place now; both I and my interlocutor are (hopefully) moving and learning even if we do not show it.  A very big event for me was attending Swarthmore College, where I was exposed to the Quaker approach to living and discussing, and also to the way of non-violence.  As with other influences, this one took decades to mature.  I went to Cambridge, England and did a Ph.D in pure mathematics, settled here and later seized the chance to move to Leeds to study and teach the History and Philosophy of Science.

Even as I was getting started on that, I developed a critical stance.  For me, ‘nuclear deterrence’ was not only immoral, but also crazy, as it involved calculating with the incalculable – the Theory of Games with ten-megadeath payoffs.  I was pleased to learn later that after the Cuba crisis the military came to the same conclusion, and created a new doctrine Mutually Assured Destruction.  Also, I wrote about the ‘Mohole scandal’, an early case of the corruption of Big Science.  All those reflections, among others, led to my big book, Scientific Knowledge and its Social Problems.  I was concerned with the way that ‘academic science’ was giving way to ‘industrialised science’, and was thereby vulnerable to new corrupting influences.  My solution then was a very sketchy ‘critical science’, cast very much in ’60’s terms.  My radical friends were very cross that I concluded the book, not with a call to militancy, but with a prayer about cultivating truth in charity, by Francis Bacon.

I was very aware of the new currents in the philosophy of science, and knew most of the big players.  As many saw it, the inherited philosophy of science as Truth could no longer be sustained.  Indeed, once Einstein had (in the general interpretation) shown that Newton was wrong about space, no scientific statement could be assumed to be free of error.  Popper tried to rescue Science by seeing it as essentially an activity of criticism and self-criticism, on the model of a free society.  But Kuhn was the philosopher of industrialised science, and his ‘normal science’ was an activity of myopic ‘puzzle-solving’ within a dogmatically imposed paradigm.  He was personally very uncomfortable with this unflattering picture, but that’s the way he saw it.  I understood ‘normal science’ as a picture of what happens in science education, where almost all students learn by precept that for every problem there is just one and only one solution, expressed to several significant digits.  I now realise that I have made a very big mistake in assuming that my readers on the blogs understand this about Kuhn; mainly they assume that ‘normal’ science is something that reflective, self-critical scientists like themselves do.  So that is the first cause of disagreement, and also a reminder to me that the term ‘post-normal’ might itself be obsolescent.  Silvio Funtowicz and I worked with titles for several years, and finally chose this one as the least problematic – possibly another mistake!

Before we started on PNS, I spent some time with Silvio on the management of uncertainty, which led to our joint book Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy.  We were convinced that in spite of the universal assumption that quantitative science has solved its problems of uncertainty, in fact there is very widespread confusion and incompetence.  We designed a notational system, NUSAP, whereby these qualitative aspects of quantitative information could be effectively expressed.  We also pondered on the question, now that Truth is no longer effective in science (unless we accept paradoxes like ‘incorrect truths’ or ‘false facts’), what is there as a regulative principle?  The answer is Quality, which itself is a very complex attribute.  I confess that we did not spend much time, as I see it now not enough, in explaining this substitution of Quality for Truth.  It is all too easy to see it as a betrayal of the ideals of science, and opening the door to political and other corruptions.  One reason for this error is that by that time I was leaving academe, and lost the contact with students that would have tested my ideas against their experience.  The issue is discussed in an article by Silvio Funtowicz, ‘Peer Review and Quality Control’ in the International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Science’ – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/referenceworks/0080430767.  I have also done a condensed sketch of my ideas on Quality, that will be posted here.

It should be on the record that I always stayed clear of arguments in which Science in general came under attack.  That happened in the ‘Science Wars’ debates, when the social-scientists seemed to be saying that science was nothing-but constructions, or negotiations, or what have you.  Every now and then I see it mentioned that I took part in those debates, but that is a complete error.  For me, the attack was misconceived and counterproductive.  For me the biggest issue is ‘normal scientists’ doing research that is competent in its own terms, but whose ‘unintended consequences’ can be harmful or indeed total.  I am also concerned with the maintenance of quality in science; this is by no means assured, and both the Credit Crunch and Climategate show what happens when quality-assurance fails.

I would be very grateful for a favour from my more severe                                                  critics.  This would be to buy a copy of my inexpensive new book, A No-Nonsense Guide to Science and examine it.  They will plenty of critical material there.  I point to the dangers of what I call ‘mega-science’ and the new technologies that are uncontrolled and perhaps uncontrollable: GRAINN or genomics, robotics, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and nanotechnology.  I also cast doubt on the certitudes of science, pointing out some important errors, some famous and some suppressed from history. I cite the Quaker principle, ‘never forget that you might be wrong’.  At the end I produce a questionnaire for students who are wondering whether a career in science will realise their ideals.  I am sure that some more conservative people in that community find the book subversive; I wonder whether my present critics will find that it encourages malign external influences (governments, businesses or demagogues) to meddle with science.

Then came the notorious Post-Normal Science, which until now has not really   attracted very much attention in the mainstream.  I’ve met people who found it an inspiration and liberation, as it enabled them to recognise the deep uncertainties in their scientific work that colleagues wished to ignore.  Its core is the mantram, ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’.  We are not saying that this is a desirable, natural or normal state for science.  We place it by means of a diagram, a quadrant-rainbow with two axes.  These are ‘systems uncertainties’ and ‘decision stakes’.  When both are small, we have ‘applied science’, which must be the vast majority of scientific work in keeping civilisation running.  When either is medium, we have ‘professional consultancy’, like the surgeon or consultant engineer.  The basic insight of PNS is that there is another zone, where either attribute is large.

My favourite example for PNS is a dam, discussed in the ‘Pittsburgh’ lecture on my website.  The principle of the dam, making hydro-electricity, is a matter of science.  The design of the dam, coping with the uncertainties of nature and making design decisions about its operation, is a matter of professional consultancy.  For PNS, I imagined that the lake as originally planned would possibly drown a part of a Civil War battlefield cemetery, a most sacred site in America. The boundaries of the cemetery were indistinct, and the loss of water storage would be costly.  This was an issue where neither science, nor professions were adequate for a solution.  The thought of putting Party hacks or eco-activists in charge of explaining the science of the dam or crreating its design, was very far from my intention.  As it happens, dams can be intensely political indeed, as some peoples’ lands and homes are drowned so that others far away can benefit from their products; should we leave all those decisions to scientists and engineers?

Of course there was a political implication in all this, although PNS was presented as a methodology.   We were sensitive to the experience of laypersons who were deemed incompetent and illegitimate by the professionals who controlled the problems and solutions.  Lyme Disease is a good early example of this.  The book Late Lessons from Early Warnings, published by the European Environment Agency has a whole set of examples from all over.  Now ‘participation’ is enshrined as a principle of policy formation in the European Union, and in many special policy areas in the USA.

In retrospect, it could be said that PNS, and in particular the ‘Extended Peer  Community’ was conceived in a left-wing framework, enabling little people to fight scientific battles against big bad corporations (state and private) and professional elites.  As I look at it from the perspective of Climategate, it’s quite possible that that particular design is less well adapted to this present case, although I found it very fruitful to imagine the blogosphere (including, especially, wattsupwiththat) as a valuable example of an Extended Peer Community.  However, let me proceed a bit further.  There are two other conceptions that say similar things.  One is the doctrine of ‘wicked problems’, that was conceived by planners who were disillusioned with the naïve scientism of the ’60’s.  The other is the theory of the ‘honest broker’ developed by Roger Pielke Jr.  He starts from the assumption that what scientists do in the policy process is not simply ‘telling Truth to Power’.  Rather, they are offering information or advice which must be tailored to the requirements of the client.  In that sense they are acting as consultants.  His target is the ‘stealth advocates’, who tell the world and perhaps themselves that they are merely stating scientific truths while they are actually arguing for a particular agenda.  We should notice that in this case a naïve philosophy of science, that of the scientist as discovering and stating simple Truth, actually deprives scientists of self-understanding, and thereby makes them more vulnerable to the corruption of the good.

That brings me more or less up to date.  Let me deal with the political background first, for on this there may be irreconcilable differences that are best brought out into the open.  If my own political bias has led me into trouble, I have the consolation that others are not immune.  Thus we can understand much of background to the Credit Crunch (which may soon destroy us all) when we learn that Alan Greenspan was a devotee of Ayn Rand, and therefore believed, until it was too late, that the state is evil and the markets perfect.  As to myself, my baggage is well known.  The hostile historical analysis in ScientistForTruth (http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/)is excellent, really recommended reading.  It also provides a compelling example of the risks of explanation of a doctrine by others.  There is a quote from a colleague of mine about PNS which seems implicitly to reduce scientists to being merely one actor among many in the extended peer community.  It has them throwing away Truth in favour of Quality, where this concept is not explained.  I can well understand a critic interpreting this as an invitation to mob rule in science.  I should really have made it emphatically clear that by ‘extended peer community’ I never meant ‘replacement peer community’ – but it’s too late now!

Again, I take for granted that ‘applied science’ is the basic, common and essential form of activity for our civilization to persist, and that PNS performs an essential regulatory function where necessary, under those special conditions.  And I have thought a lot about quality and its protection.  I could easily edit that text and ensure that my own meaning (which I’m sure is shared by my colleague) is conveyed. It is a cautionary tale to me, how a doctrine goes out of control when it is broadcast. The same thing has happened with Mike Hulme, and by association with him I have been denounced as a Marxist enemy of science by James Delingpole in The Spectator on 20th of February.  It’s ironic that I got my real breakthrough in understanding what is going on with Climategate when I identified all the critics on their blogs (and especially this one) as the new Extended Peer Community in this post-normal science situation.  For they have been doing the job of quality-assurance that, in some cases at least, was not done by the mainstream.  They might have to decide now whether they really want to belong to an Extended Peer Community, and thereby validate post-normal science.

I am well familiar with the abuses of science by big government and big business; I confess that I find it difficult to imagine how environmentalists can wreak the same sort of damage.  Some may believe that Al Gore is fronting for the Trilateral Commission, the UN, the Bilderburgers or the Illuminati, but that doesn’t fit with my experience of power-politics.  And, quite interestingly I now more clearly see my own bias, or presumption of plausibility, towards the Green side.  The evidence for that is that while I found most of Michael Crichton’s novels quite illuminating, I never bothered to read Fear. It was simply implausible to me that environmentalists would create a  terror attack.  And plausibility goes a long way in conditioning expectations and even perceptions.  Live and learn.

Another important difference between my critics and myself, I now realise, is that for them the A(C)GW issue is not post-normal at all.  They have been certain for some time that the core argument for A(C)GW is based on scientific fraud.  This does not deny that much or most of climate science, recognising and coping with deep scientific uncertainties, is sound; it’s the policy-relevant core, that we might call ‘global-warming science’ that is perceived as rotten.  So all of my methodologising, Mike Hulme’s sociologising, even Roger Pielke Jr.’s querying, is quite beside the point.  The damning facts are in, and they are either recognised or denied.  On that basis it is easy to suppose that I am a sophisticated apologist for the enemy, and that all my uncertainty-mongering effectively provides a licence for those bad people to dissemble and deceive.

Some more personal history might be useful here.  I have no expertise in climate science, and so I was reluctant to meddle.  But I have been involved in the critical analysis of models of all sorts, and quite early on I good reason to suspect that the GCMs offered little basis for certainty of prediction.  I also became aware of the hype and over-selling.  A couple of years ago I came to the conclusion that this campaign would run into trouble, and I began to think about research projects that might be useful.  One of them is now up for a grant; it’s an analysis of scientific disagreement, designed to bring together opponents and open the way to nonviolent communication.  But it was totally implausible to me that the leading UK scientists were either gullible or complicit in a serious fraud at the core of the enterprise.  Even when I heard about M&M and the hockey stick scandal, I didn’t connect that dot with the others.  There’s a confession for you!  Jerry Ravetz, arch-critical-scientist, suckered by the A(C)GW con for years on end.  That really shows the power of plausibility.  Even now I’m not all the way with my critics; the distinction between incompetence and blundering self-protection on the one hand (plus agenda-driven hype) and self-conscious scientific conspiracy on the other, may still be dividing us.

All through my chequered political career I have lived with the fact that wherever you stand, you always have more radical colleagues.  In religion, achieving inter-faith harmony is child’s play compared to intra-faith harmony, and the same holds for the  politics of dissent.  I was impressed and amused, when my call for courtesy and non-violence in the Guardian blog provoked the most hysterical denunciations anywhere.  I can understand this; I’ve been angry at false comrades in my time.  But if we all calm down, we might look together at the burden of the criticisms of PNS and see whether they are fatal.

First, there is the discovery that Steve Schneider used my 1986 paper as justification for his nefarious doctrine.  On that there are several things to say.  First, as Roger ‘tallbloke’ has observed (See tallbloke 23:39:23), the text where this exposure is made, is itself very flawed indeed.  Bits are pasted together, and one passage seems to me to have been invented for the occasion.  As to Schneider himself, one of the blogs carrying the infamous quote provides a link to a background text.  (See http://www.solopassion.com/node/5841)  There Schneider explains that the passage as quoted was shorn of a crucial qualifying sentence, and that in all his writings he has condemned just the sort of thing that the modified quote is supposed to justify.  Finally, the passage does give a reference to my article, which was a philosophical excursion on the theme ‘Usable knowledge, usable ignorance’.  This was presented at a conference intended to lay the foundations of a unified global climate science; I was concerned to remind participants that treating the global ecosystem like something on the lab bench was doomed to failure.  I should say that the reactions to the essay varied from incomprehension to outrage; some felt that I was Attacking Science, as usual.

As to Schneider himself, as it happens I have never met him, although we exchanged emails once when I refereed a paper for his journal.  The infamous quote can be read as a licence to cheat, but also as practical wisdom.  Part of the motivation for PNS was our appreciation that science advisors must sometimes cope with extreme uncertainty, that is quite unwelcome to their clients in the policy process.  The scientists could be asked to advise on how high to build future flood barriers, or how many fish of a particular stock to allow to be caught, or how many doses of vaccine to stock up for a possible epidemic.  ‘Normal science’ with hard numbers and tight error-bars gets us nowhere here.  Even to state the uncertainties is not a simple task, for the clients will interpret them their own way.  So the task of being both honest and effective even in that technical context is not trivial; and that is what Schneider is addressing.

In that connection I must disagree with some critics on one important point.  They believe that a permission for the dishonest tactics of global-warming science was made in that famous Schneider-Ravetz quote, and so we are responsible for all their sins.  Regardless of how that is interpreted, it is really quite unrealistic to imagine that a single quote, that was not even diffused as guidance, could be so influential.  Unfortunately, shoddy research and exaggerated claims are not restricted to global-warming science.  They are recognised as a serious problem in pharmacological and biomedical fields.  Do my critics suppose that somehow the word got through to all those other scientists, that two authorities had given the OK to such practices and so now we can go ahead?  And that all those who perverted science before the 1980s had somehow achieved a telepathic anticipation of the Schneider-Ravetz doctrine?  I have no acquaintance with the climate-warming scientists, but there is nothing in the leaked emails to indicate that they needed our supposed doctrines or anyone else’s to justify their practices.  So while it is an arguable (although incorrect) point that PNS justifies corrupted science, and perhaps could encourage it in the future, to blame me and Schneider for what happened in this case rests on a serious misconception of how ideas have an influence.

Then there is the more general political point, whether my ex-Marxist congenital green radicalism opens the way to new corruptions of science, be they from dictators or from demagogues.  I happen to know something about radical critiques of science, be they from the conservative side (starting with Aristophanes) or from the populist side (as Marat in the French Revolution and Lysenko) or just plain authoritarian (the Church against Galileo, or Aryan or Proletarian science).  And of course the great lesson of history is that it all depends.  In my old book I made a caution about what I then called ‘critical science’, citing the changes that Arthur Miller made in his edition of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People, in order that Dr. Stockman could be a worthy victim of McCarthyism rather than a self-deluded failed demagogue.  I may have guessed wrong on occasion, but at least I knew the score about the possible corruptions of science from all sides.

I must finally make a point about style of debate.  In my Guardian piece I called for courtesy in debate.  To some, this might identify me as a wimp.  Let me put the point more strongly, and use the concept ‘diss’.  Our language has been enriched by this verb, an abbreviation of ‘disrespect’, itself new in the language as a verb.  It comes from the culture of street gangs, and it means to humiliate someone and thereby to provoke rage and violence.  I have already made it plain that my sharpest critic has treated me with courtesy and respect, and his arguments have been very valuable to me.  The other main critic, by contrast, has argued that nearly all my productions have been either vacuous or malign, and that I am morally defective as well.  I feel that he has dissed me, and although I would like to reply to his points, I believe that that would only produce more dissing.  I regretfully conclude that there is no possibility of dialogue between us at present.

In conclusion, I should declare an interest.  My deepest concern is with the situation of science in modern civilisation.  Without something that we call ‘public trust’, it would be in big trouble.  What will happen as a result of Climategate?  As a philosopher, I find that to be the big question for me.

Well, there I am.  Thanks again to all my critics for making me think hard about me.  I hope it has been useful to you.  And thanks to Anthony Watts for posting me at the outset, and for giving me so much space now.

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don rayburg
February 22, 2010 10:13 am

I read the whole piece, I promise! Will someone now tell me what it said?

February 22, 2010 10:23 am

Dr. Ravetz, you argue cogently for a point of view that could ‘rationalize’ debate on climate change and many other issues as well. I would only note that, on both sides of many issues, ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’ are a feature, not a bug, and is a desired beginning point for many who have already decided on their desired end state. In short, identifying those who create such a view of a particular issue is important. They create this view of an issue to advance certain goals, and those goals have relatively little to do with scientific exploration of the issues.
Especially for those, like me, who do not have the requisite scientific background to follow the ‘tennis match’ of science in progress, understanding motivations is a useful addition to perceptions of honesty, fairness and a willingness to listen that are otherwise our principal tools for evaluating what our political response should be on vital issues that are shaped by uncertain science.

Alan S. Blue
February 22, 2010 10:24 am

Just to concentrate on a single aspect:
There’s a group called the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) that has claimed credit for a swath of destruction on the West coast of America. A university horticulture center (with several last-of-kind tomes and clippings from near-extinct species) along with something like ten condominium complexes, five automotive dealerships, and various other places “burnt to the ground.”
There’s also the long list of incidents that nominally start as “protests.” In England there was just a trial where protesters caused severe damage to a power plant – and were not billed or imprisoned as it was “legitimate protest.”
Individually, the protests aren’t causing too much direct damage. But collectively the nuclear protests of the seventies and eighties have made the regulatory and legal outlook of new nuclear powerplants in America quite daunting. A thirty-year delay in one of the areas that truly can have the capacity to help us shift energy production.
How much destruction has that caused?

DJ Meredith
February 22, 2010 10:26 am

He gets paid by the word.

Gary Hladik
February 22, 2010 10:28 am

My head hurts.

February 22, 2010 10:30 am

A scholar and a gentleman. Thank you once again for a timely yet insistent piece. It’s tempting to say ‘we need more like you’ but then history is full of instances where one person’s convictions were enough. Especially where those convictions are qualified with, as it were, error bars. It’s a sense of humility sadly missing from much of the debate.

Howarth
February 22, 2010 10:38 am

I can’t believe I had the patience to read this complete article. I think I will take a crack at actually listing to my girl friend the next time she starts talking. Lets boil it down to one sentence. ” Its still cold out side”. Is that PNS?

February 22, 2010 10:41 am

Thomas Kuhn is not well served by the people who quote him these days, citing paradigm shift this, and paradigm shift that. His view of “normal science” is not all that flattering to the egos of its practitioners, but it rings true to anyone who has felt frustrated by sitting through science classes in high school or college, and asked a “difficult” question that received a completely formulaic answer…that doesn’t answer anything.
This “technician’s” approach to science is at the heart of the computer modeling discipline – big ideas are inconvenient because they can get in the way of the scheduled model runs. Big ideas, such as, “Are you sure your input data is good enough to support the precision of your interpretations?”
Although I remain an ultra-liberal environmentalist, I have been troubled for many years by those Ravetz quotes Pielke as calling the ’stealth advocates’ . At the root of many environmental issues regarding habitat, use of streams, “acceptable pollution”, species diversity, etc. etc. are questions of social value. AGW folks, and many environmentalists like to raise the stakes to near infinity by posing the questions as ones of human survival. Actually, it’s nearly always a question of how do we want to live (survive)? The range of responses if extremely wide, and not reconcilable by simple factual statements. That’s why AGW is such a political hot potato – most of the shouters are bored stiff by the science.

Doug in Dunedin
February 22, 2010 10:41 am

Guest post by Jerome Ravetz
I have just finished reading your post and can only say that I am overwhelmed by your depth of understanding of humanity. Thank you for this most insightful post. I will have to re read this several times to devour it completely.
Doug

Toto
February 22, 2010 10:47 am

“normal” and “post-normal” are just descriptions, not definitions, and I think inadequate. I will stick with “pure” science, which to me is “finding things out”. You don’t need to define “truth” or “quality” to understand that. There is no goal other than understanding. If your science needs a goal, then you are really talking about engineering. If your science gets political, where things become “true” just because we want them to be true, then you are writing science fiction, and there is a lot of that in the history of science. Science is just as much about pruning out what is old and wrong as it is about growing new “truth”. There is no truth, there is just a belief about what the truth is, because our “proof” is also imperfect. If you are not a skeptic, you are not a scientist.
cite the Quaker principle, ‘never forget that you might be wrong’.

R. Gates
February 22, 2010 10:48 am

All I can say is WOW! I feel so fortunate to have a place where such divergent ideas can be presented in an open forum! Thanks to Anthony and to Dr. Ravetz. His post is thick with ideas…far too many to digest in one sitting.

Lon Hocker
February 22, 2010 10:54 am

“I cite the Quaker principle, ‘never forget that you might be wrong’.”
Nobody should be able to claim to be a scientist unless they signed on to this principle first.

chip
February 22, 2010 10:54 am

Hi Dr. Ravitz,
Thank you for your posting. I have a couple of observations.
First, and I am serious about this, the choice of “post-anything” as a name for an idea is just too close to post-modernism for me not to respond to it with feelings of icky-ness (trying to be polite :-). I believe this choice may have placed you as a left leaner more than anything else and may have caused your ideas to be viewed in a biased way by many.
Second, I appreciate the Quaker reminder that we may be wrong. Without question the most important works I ever read were those of Locke and Hume (I’d say the same about Kant, except the more I read of him the less I seemed to understand). I am a fan of Nietszche and Sartre. But post-modernism to me is just navel gazing, using words to debate the meaning of words.
Given my admiration of Locke and the late 18th/early 19th century mind in general my view since college has been that there are no physical laws, only enormous probabilities, and that our perception of reality is necessarily limited by our seperation from it in time and space, and by the limited abilities of our senses. This always leaves me open to the possibility of doubt. People may ‘thus refute me’ by smacking me on the nose if they wish, but I am not deterred :-). My perception of science is no longer that it is the pursuit of knowledge, but rather the minimization of uncertainty.
The statements of warmists (my words betray my own leanings) have always offended me for this reason – their certainty just seems so unscientific. And the more they have appealed to authority the more rankled I have become. I am now 51 and completing my dissertation at last and have no more illusions about the sanctity of the academy than I have of industry where I spent the first twenty years of my life.
I currently teach middle school math and this is a very great and important battleground. Youngsters today are brought up in an atmosphere fear. Fear of what they eat, fear of what they breathe, where they live, what they do, who they are. And all of it is based on one of the greatest, in my opinion, perversions of science and math of all – the selling of relative risk. Along with reminding them that correlation is not cause, I have to explain to them constantly that being 70% more likely to develop a brain tumor from cell phone use is meaningless and designed to promote an agenda, and that being 30% more likely of this or 90% more likely of that is likewise an attempt to manipulate them. As an ex-marketing person I look at the ads on television that are similarly fear-based and I see calculation, not information.
I think my main problem with global warming comes down to my perception that the scientists responsible seek not to reduce uncertainty, but to deny it. And this may be due to the politicians who fund them having no use for uncertainty at all. Maybe we need a separation of science and state.
And thanks again for your posts, I really do appreciate reading them and the insights they give me into your thoughts.

M Zajko
February 22, 2010 10:56 am

Thanks for your thoughts again. I think there is a lot of room for disagreement on what this current form of science takes, particularly climate science in the wake of the scandals. PNS may not be a perfect fit, but at least has had the ambition of postulating a new framework – something lacking since Khun and those who followed him poked holes in the orthodox view of science as a clear window upon truth.
The world by and large has not embraced this critical view, and I bet most people have not even heard of it. The old myths of science persist, and I feel are in many ways responsible for this current debate being polarized between accusations of fraud and pronouncements of truth. For me the idea that AGW is a hoax cooked up by self-interest is as ridiculous as the notion that it is a settled and simple truth. There is no room for dialogue between these two poles – but they are great at persuading people who expect far too much from climate science. Both assume a pure science, free from self-interest, that can act as an objective window upon reality. Maybe this is a nice ideal to aspire to, but it makes anything that fails to live up to that ideal all too easy to criticize.

PaulsNZ
February 22, 2010 11:03 am

When you start to defend Al Gore you blew it, Typical of the Hubris these egg heads exhibit!. It doesn’t add up!

Mark
February 22, 2010 11:03 am

I reckon that essay is brilliant. I’ll have to read it again to see what I agree with, but it’s great to get that level of discussion.

Murray
February 22, 2010 11:04 am

What it said is that his hostile critics had not read his original piece clearly, and were both misinterpreting him and putting words in his mouth. Some were also assuming that he could not change from his youthful convictions, and most were not taking time to think and understand before sounding off. He seems to be a pretty profound thinker wrestling with a complex issue in the belief that exposure to critique will aid the process of elucidation. Maybe some of the closed minded contributors will learn something from his example.Murray

GeneDoc
February 22, 2010 11:05 am

don rayburg (10:13:08) :
+1

Neo
February 22, 2010 11:11 am

As far as Al Gore, there is no need to bring in the Trilateral Commission, the UN, the Bilderburgers or the Illuminati, when the simple greed of venture capitalists will explain it all.

JonesII
February 22, 2010 11:12 am

Truth doesn’t need consensus or “public trust” either.

chemman
February 22, 2010 11:12 am

Thank you. Excellent piece and got my interest enough to go back and read your previous article. As someone who is trained in normal science I like your concept of post-normal science. It fits my experiences better even though I come from a conventional conservative background.

oMan
February 22, 2010 11:14 am

Dr. Ravetz: Great essay, thanks for the candor and care in setting out very useful facts and values. Trust in the enterprise is indispensable. And trust depends on good will as well as good process. You’ve done your bit to build that. Lord knows we need more.

steven mosher
February 22, 2010 11:14 am

Dr. Ravetz,
Thank you for stepping up to the plate here. I’ll comment back later, time permitting. I took your position of PNS to be largely descriptive and non normative. That is, “here is what post normal science is” . I’ll return to that later, but let me say that I agree with the science as Quality perspective ( being somewhat quinean in my view of science)
I was interested that you raised the following:
“My favourite example for PNS is a dam, discussed in the ‘Pittsburgh’ lecture on my website. The principle of the dam, making hydro-electricity, is a matter of science. The design of the dam, coping with the uncertainties of nature and making design decisions about its operation, is a matter of professional consultancy. For PNS, I imagined that the lake as originally planned would possibly drown a part of a Civil War battlefield cemetery, a most sacred site in America. The boundaries of the cemetery were indistinct, and the loss of water storage would be costly. This was an issue where neither science, nor professions were adequate for a solution. The thought of putting Party hacks or eco-activists in charge of explaining the science of the dam or crreating its design, was very far from my intention. As it happens, dams can be intensely political indeed, as some peoples’ lands and homes are drowned so that others far away can benefit from their products; should we leave all those decisions to scientists and engineers?”
There is an actual case on point here that you may not know about.
http://www.project2105.org/
One of the concerns was that the lake was formed over indian burial grounds see the document below.
December 15, 2005 Maidu Cultural and Development Group Final EIS comments
Many interests are at the table. Biologists, engineering experts, residents,
sports fishermen, native tribes,
FWIW.

Vincent
February 22, 2010 11:17 am

So, if I understand it correctly, PNS is a philosophy of science that takes as its premise the understanding that there is no such thing as Truth in this particular discipline. From that beginning, a PNS project evolves into a political animal, involving stakeholders and interested parties, who, striving for quality, attempt to drive policy solutions.
PNS only occurs when “values are uncertain and stakes are high.” The problem of climate science arose because it was treated as a normal science pronouncing upon Truths. That is why we get statements from the media such as “The science is settled,” and “The Science tells us. . . “, and political leaders castigating sceptics as “flat earthers.” In other words, both the media and the policy makers did not understand that what they were dealing with was PNS, devoid of certainties. The climate scientists, together with the IPCC were themselves complicit in allowing this erroneous perception, and indeed fostered it.
If I understand Professor Ravetz, he is saying that if climate science was recognised as PNS to begin with, we would not have allowed ourselves to be corrailed into panic policy making, and advocacy masquerading as science – the prostitution of science itself. The limitations inherent in the PNS model is its own safety valve.

Stephen Wilde
February 22, 2010 11:20 am

That’s a very helpful response from Dr. Ravetz and I can see how he dug himself into an honest but dangerous intellectual hole.
It’s an issue of practicality as againt theory. The human mind is complex and capable of subdividing concepts ad infinitum but every step takes one further away from practical reality.
The theories of Karl Marx in so far as they stress the need for the proletariat to take over the means of production are a case in point.
At it’s heart Marx starts with a concept of, essentially, democracy. Ubfortunately he then moves on to apply a considerable imagination and intellect to the process of getting to the end point and subsequently maintaining it and that is where complexity proliferates to move the whole idea away from it’s essence so as to appear to some to justify all the horrendous abuses that followed.
Instead of going into such detail all Marx had to do was recognise the necessary compromise with reality that is best achieved by parliamentary representation with a rule of law in the simple form created by England and which has experienced far greater successes world wide and over centuries.
when properly applied than communism ever has.
As it was with Marxism and politics so it is with PNS and science. It is unnecessarily detailed, out of touch with real life and equally dangerous.
Keep the science separate and pristine as the best possible independent search for the most nearly accurate as possible description of the physical world.
Keep politics separate as the way by which social and administrative decisions are made in the light of science that is recognised as not always providing enough certainty to reliably inform the political decision making.
NEVER mix the two.
As it was with the sins of Communism so it can also be with the sins of so called Post Normal Science.
Poor Dr. Ravetz for all his skill and insight is simply providing intellectual justifications that would enable others to create a devastating tyranny.

Don B
February 22, 2010 11:30 am

What a fine juxtaposition of the two back-to-back posts; one commented about the slimy Jeffrey Sachs article, followed by the thoughtful, respectful article from Dr. Ravetz, which appeared in the type of skeptical blog dissed by Sachs!

Dr S Jones
February 22, 2010 11:31 am

[Ravetz]: “On that basis it is easy to suppose that I am a sophisticated apologist for the enemy, and that all my uncertainty-mongering effectively provides a licence for those bad people to dissemble and deceive.”
Unfortunately, in providing excuses for the behavior of the Team, that’s exactly what Ravetz has done. We are all a little dumber as a result of this self-indulgent intellectual adventure.
This is an awful essay that badly needed an editor. I thought philosophy aided the clarity of one’s thinking? He does seem awfully fond of inserting himself into every stage of the drama.

Harry MacDougald
February 22, 2010 11:32 am

Mr. Ravetz is very gracious and candid.
However, PNS is deconstructionism, a/k/a modernism or relativism brought to the philosophy of science. By relativism I do not mean physical relativity, but moral or philosophical relativism.
In all or nearly all of their manifestations in all fields of human activity, these doctrines have as a foundational premise that the Truth is not knowable, and is an obsolete, invalid and socially constructed instrument of those in power. Leftist deconstructionists then articulate substitute standards, which are themselves overtly constructed to promote their desired radically left political agenda. These movements have literally destroyed the humanities in academia. The physical sciences, depending so much on objective reality, were more resistant, but not entirely so. Science by model in preference to science by observation has facilitated the rupture.
In the case of PNS they say, like the deconstructionists said in literature, art, music, architecture, etc., that Truth is Dead. The substitute PNS offers is “Quality.” But if quality is not measured by its fidelity to Truth, then it’s just power for the sake of advancing a particular political outcome. There is no objective standard to which it must be reconciled. And if Quality is measured by its fidelity to Truth, then it’s just a rebranding.
Truth may be hard to see because of our manifest human shortcomings, but it is not dead and is in no need of replacement as a guide through the world. Relativistic politically-motivated contrivances like “Quality” are worse than the non-problem they are offered to solve.

February 22, 2010 11:34 am

A non-apology apology? Two can play at that game.
I am sorry, Dr. Ravetz, that your Marxist political upbringing clouded your adult common sense. I question whether your “ex-Marxist congenital green radicalism” is truly ex, and whether it is truly congenital, for that matter. I just don’t buy your apologia.
In any case, the corruption of the scientific method with political philosophy has brought great harm, not good, to society and the planet. Trust is not the question or the answer; logical inquiry does not require popular affirmation. What is required is adherence to the truth, which does exist, and is not an emergent property of situational ethics or human will.

son of mulder
February 22, 2010 11:35 am

If there is a scientific question which has to quote “at its core the mantram, ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’”. You are free to call it post-normal science and politicians should make decisions based on risk analysis taking account of the uncertainties presented to them and their objectives.
But then surely the scientific investment should go into addressing the uncertainties. ie X has been assumed correct and action and spend has been initiated to mitigate the effects. So now invest significantly to scientifically discredit the assumption….not as happens in the world as regards AGW spend more and more money trying to support the assumption which might be wrong while suppressing and villifying those who are sceptical.
Scientific hypotheses become stronger the more thay can withstand scientific challenges.
And just to clarify my view. I don’t think AGW is an example of Post Normal Science.
To me it appears to be a crutch to support action to acheive a certain set of political and economic objectives.

Doug in Dunedin
February 22, 2010 11:37 am

chip (10:54:50) :
. Youngsters today are brought up in an atmosphere fear. Fear of what they eat, fear of what they breathe, where they live, what they do, who they are. And all of it is based on one of the greatest, in my opinion, perversions of science and math of all – the selling of relative risk. Along with reminding them that correlation is not cause, I have to explain to them constantly that being 70% more likely to develop a brain tumor from cell phone use is meaningless and designed to promote an agenda, and that being 30% more likely of this or 90% more likely of that is likewise an attempt to manipulate them. As an ex-marketing person I look at the ads on television that are similarly fear-based and I see calculation, not information.
Chip. You can extend that to the rest of the world’s population. We are all manipulated by fear and relative risk especially the politicians. Hence the argument by CAGWers – ‘we cannot afford to risk the chance that CO2 will damage the planet’ whether there is any proof (even truth in the science) or not. No one is prepared to ‘take the blame’ for risk.
We collectively have to batter this b****sh** down. We ‘westerners’ have lived in a sanitised environment for far too long. We have become puny. We might need to spend a bit of time in places like Africa and India to build up a bit of resistance and immunity to the real world environment.

steven mosher
February 22, 2010 11:40 am

Dr. Ravetz,
One of the analogies we worked with in the book was that of “noble cause corruption” That comparison, of course, engendered knee jerk reactions from those who thought that the cause was not noble and from those who thought the actions were not corrupt. But the analogy interested me because of what police corruption does to the public trust. To be sure when cops go bad there are always factions which will argue that the ends justifies the means. There will also be those who believe that all cops are bad. The key question get dropped. How do we improve policing? When I read blogs like CA I think of them as “watchdogs” ( hat tip to Judith Curry for this phrase) rather like the citizen boards that are brought on to oversee police behavior.
One last bit. If People would read through all the mails and focus on how a few key scientists acted, you can begin to get a sense of how the problem developed. The development of a “bunker mentality” happens over time and it’s fascinating to watch. I’ll keep it short here because I’ll probably do an article on it. In short, you see one scientist, Mann, acting outside his area of competence. He takes a lead in crafting PR strategies and tactics. The end result is that when those strategies and tactics are at odds with scientific ethics and practices, the scientific ethics and practices suffer.

Umbongo
February 22, 2010 11:41 am

The point at which I gave up taking this avalanche of self-justification seriously was where Ravetz wrote that “Popper tried to rescue Science by seeing it as essentially an activity of criticism and self-criticism, on the model of a free society. ”
If Ravetz doesn’t even know that Popper’s work on what constituted the demarcation between “science” and “non-science” pre-dated his realisation that the same principles underlying science might apply to free societies (ie openness, transparency and free criticism), then he has no business lecturing us on anything. As to Ravetz’s concept of what Kuhn referred to as “normal” science. In all humility – and I am not a professional philosopher – may I say that Kuhn’s analysis was concerned with what day-to-day scientists do: Kuhn’s and Popper’s views about what constitute “science” are not necessarily contradictory. “Normal” science is the boring bit: it’s not Einstein overturning the Newtonian universe. It’s more akin, for instance, to the endless search for new drugs which is indubitably “science” and involves the design of tests, the testing, the gathering of information etc. There’s very little Popperian science going on except that, unlike the “science is settled” brigade, the FDA requires chapter and verse on ALL the evidence from Big Pharma before a drug is approved.
The debate on what constitutes science will, no doubt, continue but, in another credibility-crushing remark, Ravetz asserts that Alan Greenspan’s apparently slavish acceptance of Ayn Rand’s philosophy created the credit crunch. How? Because, by imbibing Ayn Rand’s views, Greenspan came to believe that “markets are perfect”. This is such nonsense that, in the words of George Orwell, “only an intellectual could believe it”.
I agree with Ravetz that the debate should be conducted with courtesy. However, we should reserve the right to call nonsense by its proper name.

Paul Remfry
February 22, 2010 11:42 am

An interesting and thoughtful piece, but full of many names, but no numbers. I agree with the comments on dissing. They really are not useful in dialogue and respect should be agreed and given amongst civilised men. However the attitude of the Global warming fraudsters is usually not civilised. If you look at a man I would describe as a scientist as he has been there and done it – he is uncivilly treated by the man who calls himself a green, but who is in fact a self-opinionated bigot. How do you deal with such people. Global warming for them is not a science, it is a religion and be sure they are on jihad mode!
The piece is 34 minutes in on Politics show east
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search/?q=BBC%20Politics%20Show%20east

Michael
February 22, 2010 11:47 am

[snip]
The Cyber Security Bill and the renewal of the Patriot Act are the next major steps to close the iron ring on the population and free speech. The threats are hyped and made up in someones mind and turned into new crimes without victims. The lack of victims is important to note. It’s more of an attack on the subjects people are permitted to talk about, for the overall control of the masses and the continuation of current government policies already in place.
The MSM are not going to let up and will only increase the verbal attacks. You know who they work for. Remember, “Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones But Names Will Never Hurt You”.
The best way for you to fight the NWO and laws that take away your freedoms, is to increase the volume of blog material you can publish on the Internet. Overwhelm them with the volume of material you produce. Do not hold back any punches whenever possible. Call a spade a spade. Call them names that fit, without the use of baseless name calling whenever possible. They don’t react well to getting back the tactics they use, especially when the shoe fits. Words like Liar, Cheat, Thief, Criminal, and Treasonous Traitor are fair game names to call them. The list of name calling words is limited because many certain words are beneath us to use. But some are certainly on the table. Use Them.
There are esoteric movements designed to control you and use you weather you know it or not. Don’t believe this statement unless you do your own research. They are going to change the name of the Iraq war on September 1st to “NEW DAWN”. If you do not think the name change to this new chosen designation is significant, think again. See this new Video I put up for a full explanation of the Iraq war name change and why it is significant. The world is changing, but not in a way you would approve of.
Jordan Maxwell – The Dawn Of A New Day (Iraq “New Dawn” Occult Operation)
http://www

Fred Harwood
February 22, 2010 11:47 am

As one who literally grew up on D&B’s “Knowing and the Known,” I thank Anthony for providing Prof. Ravetz the scarce space and readership of this blog.

Mark
February 22, 2010 11:50 am

I might have skimmed it too fast. I read it the same way Steve Mosher did, that is, as a description rather than an aspiration. Could one those who suggest he’s offering a justification for Climategate please highlight a section where he does so.

Claude Harvey
February 22, 2010 11:53 am

Re: R. Gates (10:48:11) :
“His post is thick with ideas…far too many to digest in one sitting.”
Far too many to digest EVER. I guarantee that, should you ever digest one of the good doctor’s ideas, when you reached up on the shelf for it again you would find the good doctor had added yet more shading, subtlety and uncertainty to it to the point of having made it well neigh unusable for any practical purpose. Distilling things down to their essence is clearly not the doctor’s strong suit.

Editor
February 22, 2010 11:54 am

So according to Prof. Ravetz, the speed of light isn’t always 300k kph, the gravitational constant, plank length, pi, e, and other objectively true ‘facts’ as we were previously taught simply aren’t so and that what we have deceived ourselves to be science is really just a game of guesstimation colored by political agendas?
Sorry, that sort of mushy headed, subjective, morally relative/equivalent, politically correct, ethnic and gender sensitive HOO-HA (to use the scientific term) ISN’T what science is about. You are free to go call your dartboard throwing, tea-leaf reading non-objective guessing games something else…

patrick healy
February 22, 2010 11:56 am

great post Dr. Ravetz.
managed to follow most of it.
particularly liked the Quaker principle ‘never forget that you might be wrong’
i will try and imprint that in my mind, when i debate with those ‘who know not what they do (to science)’
BTW any chance you could give some thought to the consequences of Filthy Lucre and science funding. I would look forward to your prognostigations.
thanks Anthony for the posting.

February 22, 2010 11:58 am

Dr Ravetz
Thank you for a most interesting essay which was very thought provoking and warrants several reads. You said;
“I would be very grateful for a favour from my more severe critics. This would be to buy a copy of my inexpensive new book, A No-Nonsense Guide to Science and examine it.”
Do you have an ISBN for the book?
tonyb

February 22, 2010 11:58 am

Like many others here I am greatly impressed by what Jerry wrote. I would really like to meet him!
Robin (from Bromsgrove)

Editor
February 22, 2010 11:59 am

Mark (11:50:01) :
“I might have skimmed it too fast. I read it the same way Steve Mosher did, that is, as a description rather than an aspiration. Could one those who suggest he’s offering a justification for Climategate please highlight a section where he does so.”
I’m not suggesting that. Its clear to us that AGW alarmists are a religion and not science for some time now, we don’t need post modernism to deconstruct it.

Jørgen F.
February 22, 2010 12:00 pm

Philosophy of science, the most valuable intellectual property the western civilization has ever produced.
Let’s preserve and protect.

Anand
February 22, 2010 12:02 pm

Dr Ravetz: Your honesty is refreshing.
I only hope that atleast some of those steeped knowingly or otherwise, in the Ayn Randian vein of venal libertarianism can recognise the ills of political-scientific monotheism, just as you did with enviro-marxism.
For such a day will come to pass, to be sure.

EdB
February 22, 2010 12:02 pm

I cannot be other than amazed at how Steve Mcintyre is logical, lucid, and brief, while Jerry Ravetz is wordy and convoluted.
Ten thousand Jerrys would not debunk the hockey stick, and that is the truth of it.

February 22, 2010 12:03 pm

I am very grateful to have the “Are you sure your input data is good enough to support the precision of your interpretations?” expression from the above Comment from Lichanos.
My enemy is one who is fanatically against industrial civilisation as a solution to human needs.
My friend is one who is aware of the vital need to so order the details of our human conduct of industrial civilisation that we keep air, water and soil clean.
My enemy is one who believes that a device so inevitably limited as a computer model could ever accurately represent the extremely complicated natural inter-reactions within the atmosphere of the planet Earth, as it falls through the radiations of star Sol, and through other matter falling through our system.
My friend is one who is aware of the vital need to so order scientific observation that we do a better job than religion or politics.
Cy Quick at sumpnado.wordpress.com

JJ
February 22, 2010 12:03 pm

I find this cogent distillation:
‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’
to be inapplicable to the current issue.
What we have are facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes uncertain, and urgency of decisions uncertain.
And in many important instances, it is rather best described as “facts fabricated, stakes knowingly exaggerated, and urgency of decision forced to prevent discovery of same, as a means of prevailing in the battle of disputed values.”
That isnt Post Normal Science. It is simply All Too Normal Politics.
JJ

Arthur Glass
February 22, 2010 12:04 pm

‘It’s not about me’ is the ultimate expression of contemporary narcissism. It is the answer to a question that it would occur to no inerlocutor to ask. Who even thought it possibly was about you, worm?
I gave up reading about three-quarters of the way through when I had determined that the most productive thing one might do with this text would be to count the number of first person singular references.

Arthur Glass
February 22, 2010 12:05 pm

Some cocktails require bitters.

Jim Stathos
February 22, 2010 12:11 pm

The problem lies with the term “science”. Not all who wear lab coats and take measurements are “scientists” nor is what they do “science”. Archeology, anthropology, dendro paleontology — these are not science. They are speculation. Perhaps it would be better to use the original term Natural Philosophy to cover what they do. This is not to say that they are without value to society. However, they do not produce data which is “actionable” as do medicine and engineering. When the basic data upon which a field of study rests can not be measured repeatedly and independently verified then it is not science. We will never know how hot it was in 976 AD, period. This is why many reject the “science” behind AGW.

Matthew
February 22, 2010 12:13 pm

Fantastic! Right under Jerome’s brilliant article Google ads had placed a ad for scientology.org. This is why a) the internet dumbs down the world and is a force for evil, and b) Google will one day tumble. Give it 15 years max.
Paragraph 9 seems to be the crux of this essay – when ‘systems uncertainties’ and ‘decision stakes’ are large, you get the great global warming swind…er debate.

JonesII
February 22, 2010 12:16 pm

Why is it so that some people always try to invent systems intended for the governance of other people apart of themselves. Just be respectful of individuality and free development of humanity, who do you believe yourselves as the ones to be the patrons over humanity. Everytime you begin with these stories history shows you, the chosen ones, end being in troubles, the individual sane instict of humans smells out these guys as troublesome and ends up in finding not too pleasant ways of getting rid of these profound thinkers whose only and strange desire is to rule over the rest and profit from the rest.

Tim
February 22, 2010 12:17 pm

It’s called a feedback loop in engineering. You make several checkpoints and the feedback from those determine the next output. The IPCC not only ignored this they violently opposed it to the point of engaging in unscientific, unethical and possibly illegal activity.
That is not only poor science it is pathetic engineering. They had an agenda and couldn’t care less about the facts.

Vincent
February 22, 2010 12:18 pm

Mike Lorrey,
“So according to Prof. Ravetz, the speed of light isn’t always 300k kph, the gravitational constant, plank length, pi, e, and other objectively true ‘facts’ as we were previously taught simply aren’t so. . . ”
No, no no. Ravetz was quite clear in drawing a distinction between normal science and post normal. The former is characterised by conventional Popperian falsification and converges towards what we take to be Truths, or Laws. The examples you have given are all examples of normal science. Leave them alone.
Post Normal Science is reserved for areas such as climate science where “values are uncertain and the stakes are high.” Sceptics recognise that the climate is a complex non linear chaotic system – more complex than the human brain. It may even be computationally intractable. Ravetz recognises that there cannot be any Truths here – or at least not at our present level of understanding.
The problems arise precisely because too many believe that climate science is capable of delivering Truths – ie the science is settled. These erroneous “truths” have driven the lamental political agenda that sits like a yoke upon all our necks. I believe Ravetz is saying that PNS would refute any such finality upon the pronouncements of climate science, and would allow everyone to see that the science cannot possibly be settled.

Steve Keohane
February 22, 2010 12:24 pm

steven mosher (11:40:02) : The development of a “bunker mentality” happens over time and it’s fascinating to watch.
You’re right, I’ve seen it in industry. In a production environment with several groups of engineers on two levels, R&D and production, there is a great deal of inertia to anything Not-Invented-Here (NIH).

John Galt
February 22, 2010 12:25 pm

Anand (12:02:10) :
Dr Ravetz: Your honesty is refreshing.
I only hope that atleast some of those steeped knowingly or otherwise, in the Ayn Randian vein of venal libertarianism can recognise the ills of political-scientific monotheism, just as you did with enviro-marxism.
For such a day will come to pass, to be sure.

Most of us who do believe in the free market could not believe the surrealism that one of our government’s chief economic regulators described himself as a fan of Ayn Rand.
I am just unable to match Greenspan’s actions with his professed beliefs. The Fed continually meddled in the economy during Greenspan’s tenor and the Fed policy of meddling contributed to the current economic problems.
I’d like to try a free market for a change. I am also a fan of Ayn Rand, but I also recognize the need for some regulation.

G.R. Mead
February 22, 2010 12:30 pm

Mike D. wrote: “In any case, the corruption of the scientific method with political philosophy has brought great harm, not good, to society and the planet. Trust is not the question or the answer; logical inquiry does not require popular affirmation. What is required is adherence to the truth, which does exist, and is not an emergent property of situational ethics or human will.”
The scientific method has been a triumph of reason. But it has succeeded in some ways at a marked cost — the cost of neglecting other forms of human truth-seeking that are equally powerful — and equally dangerous in their own ways. The AGW movement has used these other forms of truth-seeking to undermine the validity of sound scientific reasoning — while travelling in its guise — but the elevation of reasoning in isolation is what exposed it that danger. The stool of truth stands not on the soel leg of reason but on three legs: reason, emotion, and tradition.
The tendency to err, in large and small things, tends to be in neglecting one two of these and the emphaiss on the remainder. Classically, rhetoric sought to communicate or discover truth in these three distinct ways — Logos or reason; pathos, or feeling; and lastly, ethos, a much misunderstood concept.
Pathos is misunderstood in subjective terms when it is actually an objective concept about how we appeal to concrete visceral sensations of rightness. Movie-makers most notably have mastered the objective arts of the pathos arguments in search of truth.
Ethos has less to do with personal moral standards and more to do with evolutionary optimization over successive generations and the accumulation of collective knowledge in practical wisdom and acknowledged standards of excellence. “Adherence to Tradition” is the most sensible way to describe what is meant. It is an optimization of contending preferences or conditions over time in a evolutionary sense.
If all three of these ways of knowing or sensing truth coincide or converge the tendency to err is likely to be very small. If one or more is left out — the tendency to err can be arbitrarily large.
Science divorced from sound ethical tradition or without genuine human empathy in its conduct or goals of its exploration becomes a pervading horror. Emotional exhortation without recourse to reasoned restraint and traditional limitations becomes a slavering mob. Adherence to a hidebound tradition without sensitivity to contingent historical developments, the power of human desires, and moral frailties or without the corrective of sound reason becomes a tyrrannical dead hand.
Most problems in the world today come from an overemphasis on one or two of these at the expense of the other(s). Ravetz’s points are well-taken in that regard — but in some respects also commit some of same errors by simply substituting a different emphasis — but without the rigor of a comprehensive account of how we should deal with the desire for truth and the risk of error as human beings — in all the ways that we understand and judge truth.
Pathos and Ethos manipulations largely explain the success of the media campaigns in support of AGW. By combining naked emotional appeals with the collectively the imposed sense of “politically correct” attitudes and a “moral” appeal to “science” — notably NOT in its sense of actual reasoning — but as a presumed source of value standard — they have become the new Sophists. It is this latter point that Ravetz seems to approve of — but is in fact the misplaced value in science as moral standard vice reason value that has contributed to this immense error that was nearly perpetrated on the people of the planet.

February 22, 2010 12:31 pm

Well it’s a long article, but I found it interesting that you describe a sort of science plane, with an uncertainty axis and a “stakes” axis. Although you describe small stakes combined with small uncertainty, medium stakes with medium uncertainty and high stakes with high uncertainty, it is interesting to contemplate all the possibilities on this continuum. Say, small uncertainty with medium or high stakes, medium uncertainty with small or high stakes, and high uncertainty with medium and small stakes. What could one call those? Low stakes, high uncertainty situations, I think, are the norm of the scientific frontier-most scientific findings won’t have huge applications to the world but they will be uncertain due to the lack of knowledge of that which is not yet discovered. On the other hand, with high stakes and low uncertainty you have a situation where the science could be “applied” just as when stakes are low, the difference being that small uncertainty actually becomes more of an issue when the stakes are higher than when they are lower. But sufficiently small uncertainty allows even the highest stakes issues to be in the realm of “applied science”. And of course all the places in between blend and it becomes a problem of deciding what where to draw the line between applicable and not.
There are some points I disagree with but overall very interesting perspective.

February 22, 2010 12:34 pm

I have to agree with JJ (12:03:58) :
Unfortunately, the implication that ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’ means that we are to operate in a different mode (post-normal science), means that any time anyone has an agenda that doesn’t fit the facts and other people’s values, they can trump those details by claiming “stakes high and decisions urgent”.
The question is who’s to decide that stakes are high and decisions urgent when facts are uncertain?
It seems almost a tautology that it can’t be known whether or not the decision is urgent if the facts are uncertain.

Turning Tide
February 22, 2010 12:35 pm

OK – I give up. Is he for it or agin it?

February 22, 2010 12:36 pm

‘This would be to buy a copy of my inexpensive new book….’
Hy Dr. Ravetz
Having studied elements of history of art, classic and modern philosophy, logic, sociology and Marxism-Leninism none of it was as profound as words of my late grandfather : ‘steady job with a good pension at the end of it’.
4.50 UK sterling relating to above quote would fall far short of my granddad’s advice. I wish you good luck with it.

steven mosher
February 22, 2010 12:40 pm

Mark (11:50:01) :
Thanks Mark. To others who are suggesting that ravetz is a deconstructionist or some such thing. Well, I knew Derrida ( from my time at UCLA). Ravetz is no Derrida. That’s not a slam. As a body of thought climate science is “deconstructable” The simplest form of deconstruction is merely exposing the metaphors within climate science or pointing out how it shares forms of thought with religion. Other’s have done that quite handily.

Richard S Courtney
February 22, 2010 12:42 pm

The above article is mis-named: it is titled:
“Jerry Ravetz part 2 – Answer and explanation to my critics”.
The main criticism of the ‘part 1’ was its claim that scientific information should be assessed on the basis of its “quality” and not its ‘truth’, but no clear definition of “quality” was provided.
The above article also provides no definition of “quality” but says;
“The issue is discussed in an article by Silvio Funtowicz, ‘Peer Review and Quality Control’ in the International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Science’ – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/referenceworks/0080430767
However, that link does not provide a clear definition of “quality”, either.
In the absence of that definition both ‘part 1

John Galt
February 22, 2010 12:49 pm

The evidence for that is that while I found most of Michael Crichton’s novels quite illuminating, I never bothered to read Fear. It was simply implausible to me that environmentalists would create a terror attack. And plausibility goes a long way in conditioning expectations and even perceptions. Live and learn.

You must check your premises. This document from the Department of Homeland Security lists 10 environmental terrorist groups:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/12251436/DHS-Eco-Terrorism-in-US-2008
I can only ask if you are unaware of these or if you believe these groups aren’t environmentalist.

Bob Shapiro
February 22, 2010 12:50 pm

I dislike the whole idea of trying to call something by a name that it is not.
Science, to me, is knowing what can be known, even if there is uncertainty involved. A few examples:
1. I drop a steel ball and it falls (100% certainty unless outside forces are applied).
2. The temperature of a sample is X (certainty within the precision error bands of the measurement device)
3. Aspirin generally relieves fever and pain (less certain and there may be side effects such as allergy)
Applying the science, while using the science intimately, requires a name other than science; alternatives might include consultancy or engineering. This is not intended to malign consultants or engineers, but only to define what it is that is going on. Examples include:
1. Building a bridge. Different engineers will design the bridge differently, with differing safety factors, etc.
2. A doctor prescribing aspirin. “It should work, and the patient hasn’t indicated allergy.”)
Deciding which consultancy avenues to pursue, is even further removed from science, although once again, science is at the heart of the process. It may be called policy. This happens daily for example at manufacturers deciding on new products.
Attempting to persuade the efforts of others into your choice of policy continues the departure from science. This is advocacy. As we have seen, advocates sometimes misuse science, by misdescribing what the science component actually says – by lying.
To allow the term science to be applied to any but the first item above, is not acceptable to me, regardless of Dr. Ravetz’ erudite phraseology.

BC Bill
February 22, 2010 12:50 pm

I liked this follow-up as much as the original. As a scientist involved in resource management, my whole working life revolves around making decisions about how to manage complex systems when there are no clear answers. I have been bothered most of my life by the many instances (from Semmelweiss to Margulis) of the scientific community being wrong en masse. Now science is further jeopardized by the quack-cures con of the pharmaceutical industry (may I suggest quack-cures as the original con). I have viewed the AGW debacle as one more example of science run amok, though perhaps on a scale that we have never seen before. Cleary there are things wrong with science- outdated ideas cannot be cast aside (the savannah theory of human evolution), the predominant scientific view is often wrong in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contray (AGW, plate tectonics), the journals are filled with junk science as researchers must publish and so must the thousands of scientific journals and lastly, but certainly not completely- science is unable to effectively influence the management of complex systems (the Northern cod stocks and ocean fish stock declines in general, declining soil productivity worldwide, species extinction etc.). Dr. Ravetz has taken the AGW phenomenon/debate to exactly where it needs to be. Why do these sorts of things keep happening in science, how can we make decisions about how to manage complex systems even when the science is honest (let alone dishonest as with AGW), what role can the blogosphere play in exposing junk science (don’t forget there is also Realclimate). Bravo Dr. Ravetz. We need more of this.

Robert M
February 22, 2010 12:52 pm

I have read your essay, it seems to me that you have started on a journey, but have not reached its logical destination. Thank you for sharing your history with us, it helps me personally understand where your journey began.
However, I feel that perhaps some of what you have written stops short of where it should… You write:
“Climategate is particularly significant because it cannot be blamed on the well-known malign influences from outside science, be they greedy corporations or an unscrupulous State. This scandal, and the resulting crisis, was created by people within science who can be presumed to have been acting with the best of intentions.”
I think it is time to admit that many of the “Scientists” involved with promoting AGW do not “have the best of intentions.”
And:
“But it was totally implausible to me that the leading UK scientists were either gullible or complicit in a serious fraud at the core of the enterprise.”
Gullible or incompetent is a fallback defense at best. Serious fraud has been the order of the day…
Phil Jones – “accidental” loss of the raw data, was the use of the fallback defense. He wrote an email stating that he would erase the data before he let anyone examine it. He then erased the data.
Keith Briffa – Tossed more than 95% of his dataset to get the hockey stick he needed. He concealed his methods for over ten years. The full dataset showed Zero warming. Briffa’s fallback defense? He didn’t realize that throwing out all of the trees that didn’t support his position was a problem. Oops.
Michael Mann – His statistical methods produce a hockey stick every time. Even with a dataset of random noise. He conceals his methods to this day. His defense? Everyone who questions him or his methods is a puppet controlled by evil forces, and all of his techniques are super secret, but you can believe them.
And:
“It takes determination and skill for a scientist who is committed to social responsibility, to avoid becoming a ‘stealth advocate’ (in the terms of Roger Pielke Jr.). When the policy domain seems unwilling or unable to recognise plain and urgent truths about a problem, the contradictions between scientific probity and campaigning zeal become acute.”
Most, if not all of the Scientists involved are far worse than “stealth advocates”. James Hansen comes to mind, his position, affirmed in a court of law, is that it is ok to break the law in support if global warming advocacy. Jimmy has already been arrested backing up his words. Are you going to be surprised when he is caught cooking the books on his dataset?
Robert M

Bruce Cobb
February 22, 2010 12:57 pm

“In that connection I must disagree with some critics on one important point. They believe that a permission for the dishonest tactics of global-warming science was made in that famous Schneider-Ravetz quote, and so we are responsible for all their sins. Regardless of how that is interpreted, it is really quite unrealistic to imagine that a single quote, that was not even diffused as guidance, could be so influential.”
The IPCC’s very own Sir John Houghton (who oversaw the first 3 reports) said “Unless we announce disasters no one will listen”.
The entire IPCC process of coming up with its reports is based on the assumption that manmade CO2 is driving climate change, and is endangering humanity. Whatever works is fine, it’s the end result, the agenda which must be protected at all costs. To them, the ends do indeed justify the means.
I imagine the infamous Schneider quote was both influential as well as symptomatic.
If he hadn’t said it, someone would certainly have, or words to that effect.

February 22, 2010 12:59 pm

Very few scientists are concerned about philosophy and very few philosophers are concerned about science. Science is a human activity and has always had societal importance [from presaging Nile flooding to GPS-enabled devices]. So society supports science, but always with an eye on ‘what’s in it for us’. This bargain is understood. I don’t think there is such a thing as PNS in the eyes of scientists. For us, today is just business as usual.

Alfred Centauri
February 22, 2010 1:11 pm

“Alan Greenspan was a devotee of Ayn Rand, and therefore believed, until it was too late, that the state is evil and the markets perfect.”
Whether Alan Greenspan believed that the state is evil and the markets perfect or not, Ayn Rand certainly did not.
For Rand, governments have an essential role in protecting individual rights. Here, she defines the role of and argues for a proper government: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=arc_ayn_rand_the_nature_of_government
Further, she did not believe that (free) markets are perfect in any sense. Rather, she argued that a free (free of force, free of fraud, free of coercion, free of government intervention of any kind) market is *moral*.
Most importantly, Rand understood, warned, and predicted the fate of the mixed economy of the U.S. with its vast, massive infrastructure for economic intervention, i.e., central banking, government sponsored enterprises, FDA, FCC, USDA, etc., etc., etc.:
“A mixed economy is a mixture of freedom and controls—with no principles, rules, or theories to define either. Since the introduction of controls necessitates and leads to further controls, it is an unstable, explosive mixture which, ultimately, has to repeal the controls or collapse into dictatorship. A mixed economy has no principles to define its policies, its goals, its laws—no principles to limit the power of its government. The only principle of a mixed economy—which, necessarily, has to remain unnamed and unacknowledged—is that no one’s interests are safe, everyone’s interests are on a public auction block, and anything goes for anyone who can get away with it. Such a system—or, more precisely, anti-system—breaks up a country into an ever-growing number of enemy camps, into economic groups fighting one another for self preservation in an indeterminate mixture of defense and offense, as the nature of such a jungle demands. While, politically, a mixed economy preserves the semblance of an organized society with a semblance of law and order, economically it is the equivalent of the chaos that had ruled China for centuries: a chaos of robber gangs looting—and draining—the productive elements of the country.
A mixed economy is rule by pressure groups. It is an amoral, institutionalized civil war of special interests and lobbies, all fighting to seize a momentary control of the legislative machinery, to extort some special privilege at one another’s expense by an act of government—i.e., by force. In the absence of individual rights, in the absence of any moral or legal principles, a mixed economy’s only hope to preserve its precarious semblance of order, to restrain the savage, desperately rapacious groups it itself has created, and to prevent the legalized plunder from running over into plain, unlegalized looting of all by all—is compromise; compromise on everything and in every realm—material, spiritual, intellectual—so that no group would step over the line by demanding too much and topple the whole rotted structure. If the game is to continue, nothing can be permitted to remain firm, solid, absolute, untouchable; everything (and everyone) has to be fluid, flexible, indeterminate, approximate. By what standard are anyone’s actions to be guided? By the expediency of any immediate moment.
The only danger, to a mixed economy, is any not-to-be-compromised value, virtue, or idea. The only threat is any uncompromising person, group, or movement. The only enemy is integrity.”
Finally, in Atlas Shrugged, when the protagonist John Galt was offered the position of economic dictator by the U.S. head of state, he refused. When Alan Greenspan accepted the role of economic dic… Federal Reserve chairman, he unequivocally rejected Rand’s beliefs.
http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=21857

JonesII
February 22, 2010 1:11 pm

Turning Tide (12:35:06) :Of course he is for it!, he has just invented a discourse to justify a lie as a truth. 2+2 it is not any longer equal to 4 but it can be equal to whatever “we” (they) like.
Why do these people do not like working but inventing ways to profit from other peoples’ work?, because instead of producing goods, global warmers “business men” pretend to profit from selling phantom and newly invented and created directly from vacuum “carbon shares”.

February 22, 2010 1:12 pm

This is a follow-up Comment of mine, upon this Post.
I wish I had read Doctor Jerome’s first piece ‘Climategate: Plausibility and the blogosphere in the post-normal age’ (which is magnificent and speaks for itself) before his second, ‘Answers and Explanations to my critics’.
The second piece (above) is a gracious but pointless and wandering attempt by a great mind to communicate with those (like me) of less power. What Doctor Jerome might have said in answer to his critics is something to the effect:
“I respectfully request my critics to read my article again. It was written it with utmost care. I sincerely believe that the objections made by my critics were already answered.”
It is always tragic when a man of exquisite comprehenson and articulation inadvisedly attempts to politely respond to irrelevant attacks made by those of vastly-less ability.
Cy Quick at sumpnado.wordpress.com

Lucy
February 22, 2010 1:17 pm

Some good stuff, but some terrible.
Thus we can understand much of background to the Credit Crunch (which may soon destroy us all) when we learn that Alan Greenspan was a devotee of Ayn Rand, and therefore believed, until it was too late, that the state is evil and the markets perfect.
Uninformed conclusions like this lay doubt on every conclusion the author puts forth.
The author might be interested in considering that public support (ie trust) of science is best found in capitalistic societies. For example, there are some people who don’t trust microwaves, but the vast majority of the populace has put their trust in those devices.
Feeling a need to win public trust is only an issue if you are planning to use your science without public consent (what governments do, often with stolen money). And that, quite frankly, should never happen.

Nick de Cusa
February 22, 2010 1:18 pm

John Galt (12:25:29) :
“… I am just unable to match Greenspan’s actions with his professed beliefs. The Fed continually meddled in the economy during Greenspan’s tenor and the Fed policy of meddling contributed to the current economic problems.
I’d like to try a free market for a change. …”
Hear hear.

Phil Ubes
February 22, 2010 1:20 pm

Dr Ravetz, I am sure I didn’t read the word ‘worldview’ a single time in your article. I humbly suggest that everything you have written here could be condensed into that single word.

D.T.
February 22, 2010 1:24 pm

You cite a Quaker principle ‘never forget that you might be wrong’ without citing a reference. Would you please? Thanks.
Although undoubtedly a Friend tenet, it predates George Fox as a general Protestant ideal.
Perhaps the philosphy of the Puritan’s chronicler is also appropriate to this discussion:

When I am convinced of any mistakes, or unfair representations, I shall not be ashamed to retract them before the world; but facts are stubborn things, and will not bend to the humours and inclinations of artful and angry men; if these have been disguised or misreported, let them be set right in a decent manner, without the mean surmises of Plots and Confederacies, and whoever does it, shall have mine as well as the thanks of the publick.—Daniel Neal, The History of the Puritans, 1755.

D.T.

steven mosher
February 22, 2010 1:26 pm

“Mike Lorrey (11:54:50) :
So according to Prof. Ravetz, the speed of light isn’t always 300k kph, the gravitational constant, plank length, pi, e, and other objectively true ‘facts’ as we were previously taught simply aren’t so and that what we have deceived ourselves to be science is really just a game of guesstimation colored by political agendas?”
No Mike, without reading Ravetz’ work in depth I’ll offer up a view of these things that hopefully would make sense to you. Lets just take the Speed of Light. You might recognize that 2+2=4 is a truth of a certain order. That is you might say that “you can’t imagine, that it would be otherwise.” It’s impossible to imagine it otherwise. Likewise, you might say that the sentence ” all unmarried men are unmarried” is also true in this certain way. ( I’d argue both of those but not here) In any case, you would be hard pressed to argue that the “velocity of light = 300K kph” is true in the same kind of way. We have an explanation of the world that posits a thing called light. We also posit a property we call “velocity” The idea that the speed of light is a “constant” was a hypothesis. That is why people try to confirm this hypothesis with experiments. It’s simply not “true” on its face or true by terms of definition. And the value of the constant is only known to a certain accuracy, although that accuracy is quite good. That the speed of light is approximately 300K kph, always retains its hypothetical status. That is, we can imagine that it is not so To be sure, for this hypothesis to change would require a huge amount of rewriting of the laws of physics. It’s not impossible in a mathematical or logical sense, it’s just very difficult.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_speed_of_light
But such a rewriting is logically POSSIBLE. What does this mean practically.
It means this. The speed of light, for example, is one of those hypothesis of science that are accepted as “fact” because they work really well to explain other things. They are central to our web of understanding. Accepting the “truth” of the hypothesis allows us to predict and do many other things. Replacing this central tenet would require a lot of work. So it is accepted.
It’s not accepted because it is mathematically certain. Its not accepted because its logically certain. Its accepted because humans engaged in certain behaviors ( experiments) and manipulations of other symbols in “physical laws” and these behaviors were successful. When these behaviors were successful, they explained that by calling the proposition in question
“true” but what they really meant was that accepting the sentence allowed them to engage in successful behavior.
Its accepted Not because it “corresponds” to reality. Not because there is a “thing” called light and “property” called velocity, but because over the course of scientific behavior it has been demonstrated to be useful and work. Postulating a thing called “light” and a property called “velocity” has proven to be a powerful, useful thing.
The other way to look at this is as follows. I’ll bet ravetz is closer to camp #2. It’s a vastly different camp than the “relativist” school. But lets see what he says
1. the speed of light = 300K kph, . and it works because it
is true. And there is no point questioning it because it is true. and it will
be true forever and ever and in every imaginable universe, and since
man’s imagination is limited, it’s true in universes that are beyond our imagination.
2. The speed of light = 300K kph is a high quality statement. It is supported by experiments to a very high quality. If you want to build things that work, you should use that value in your equations. If you try to question it youre are probably wasting your time. It could have been otherwise. It works, saying that its “true” adds nothing. Truth as “correspondence” adds nothing to our understanding of the world or our ability to do things.

George Tobin
February 22, 2010 1:28 pm

1) I didn’t know that anyone was permitted to do philosophy of science any more. I just assumed that it was now all “science studies” and PoMo political/deconstructive rap about what scientists allegedly do.
2) One reason that philosophy of science seems to have declined in favor of political academics is precisely because issues like uncertainty and the ontological status of modeled science are often inconvenient to people with clear agendas. The goal appears to be to denigrate the uniqueness and validity of scientific method except when it serves a selected cause, in which case it is highly privileged and co-equal with the political message it serves. Worse, if science creates examples and models of standards of quality and validity that might carry over into a sharper understanding of which academic undertakings are important and which are utterly bogus.
3) The nastiness surrounding this issue is built in. ‘Deniers’ are aware that the science is used pretextually to advance an explicit political agenda and often target even the the hard science in addition to the agenda. ‘Believers’ exhibit the issue-identification that seems especially characteristic of the political left–an all-encompassing belief that validates the intellectual and moral worthiness of the adherent, and ascribes malice and stupidity to non-believers.
4) The ‘extended peer community’ concept only works if everybody knows their limitations. Community concerns don’t change the atomic weight of calcium. And with respect to values decisions, scientists only get one vote like everybody else. They do not get to disproportionately decide policy. But if they think they do get to do so and craft the science to increase their influence, then it all goes bad, like climate science right now (post-Mann).

Atomic Hairdryer
February 22, 2010 1:29 pm

Re: EdB (12:02:52) :
I cannot be other than amazed at how Steve Mcintyre is logical, lucid, and brief, while Jerry Ravetz is wordy and convoluted.
Ten thousand Jerrys would not debunk the hockey stick, and that is the truth of it.

But that’s PNS for you. May not explain why the hockey stick is broken, but explain why it was broken. Having had a somewhat chequered career involving engineering, intelligence and business Dr Ravetz’s thoughts ring true to me.
If I commission work from a scientist, it’s because I want to know the truth. I want hard, verifiable, provable, reproduceable facts. The basic stuff that the scientific method is all about. I may not like, agree with or even understand the results, but that’s the way the die rolls.
If I commission work from a consultancy, it’s also because I want to know the truth. This time, it’ll involve probably more pre-engagement meetings to scope out the consultancy. Part of that may be to elicit the result I’m looking for because if I’m happy with the result, the consultancy may get more business.
It’s not the same rules of engagement I’d expect if I were commissioning from a science lab. I’d still ask the scientist for their opinions, because they’re still human and have opinions to. The proof though is more important.
PNS seems to have scientists as consultants or advocates. Maybe this is because of the way academic funding works and the pressures on HoD’s to bring in the cash. This creates the risk of then giving the client what they want rather than what can be proven to keep the money flowing. For climate science, the money is very much in the hands of those that want to profit from it.

Arthur Glass
February 22, 2010 1:30 pm

” Philosophy of science, the most valuable intellectual property the western civilization has ever produced. ‘
Next to the Bach B-Minor Mass, perhaps.

Dorian
February 22, 2010 1:34 pm

Dr. Ravetz,
This monologue of yours is a perfect example of what is wrong with Academia today:
– Your allocution is incredibly poor and ineffectual (not to mention the poor grammar in areas),
– Your stunning display of self reverencing is boarding upon self apotheosis,
– Your understanding of the basic human characteristics of, lying, truth, constructive disagreement, and just plain scientific analysis and learning, are so intricate and convoluted, you make life sound like some tortuous academic existential exercise. I find you sir, in a word, delusional.
– Your understanding of the science and how you mix it with the socio-politico-economic arena, illustrates more of philosophical paranoia than with meaningful earthly understanding.
God help this planet if people like you have any say in its management!
What a lot of drivel!

JonesII
February 22, 2010 1:37 pm

sumpnado (13:12:32) : Not at all!, it is but a sophism, a vacuum discourse full of words to pseudo intellectually justify what is unjustifiable: The post normal science of climate change about how to inflate a gigantic financial bubble, which like those also invented “black holes” will suck all the money from our wallets and turn us into new impoverished people, the “gamma” beggars of their “Brave New World” order.

Dr S Jones
February 22, 2010 1:42 pm

“His post is thick with ideas…far too many to digest in one sitting.” Far too many to digest EVER.
But that would put Ravetz in the realm of the esoteric. It would mean he is cleverer than any individual here, or all of us collectively.
Given that the man’s contribution to this crisis in science has been minimal (the first sight of him here on the skeptic blogs is beating a very public, ass-covering retreat), perhaps you are being a little generous.

Arthur Glass
February 22, 2010 1:45 pm

‘Post-normal’ sounds like the kind of vacuous terminology Alan Sokal used, fifteen or so years ago, in his gloriously succesful send-up of ‘science studies’ in a deservedly forgotten po-mo journal called–Social Text__, which published his satire as straight truth.

hotrod ( Larry L )
February 22, 2010 1:46 pm

Just a quick observation.
I think you are simply re-naming old and well establish principles that our education system has been ignoring (failing to teach) for quite a long time.
There are three key principles in science and engineering (applied science) that cover what I believe you are trying to express with your post normal science.
There is the technical science which is what most people really mean when they talk about “the science”.
This is the current state of the art with regard to a technical subject. This is the “known facts” (to our best ability to know them).
If you ask a carpenter to cut you a 2×4 that is 14 inches long, you assume he will use a piece of wood that meets the current state of the art regarding home construction and the piece of wood will be typical of lumber sold as a “2×4”, you also expect him to use good practice in measuring and performing the cut so that the ends of the wood are square to the sides and the length is with in the assumed precision needed for the intended application. This assumed accuracy in a carpenters work would be the smallest division on a common tape measure, or about +/- 16th of an inch in the U.S. Likewise he would assume that if you needed a higher precision you would express that need up front, so he does not need to cut a second piece of wood.
If you ask a Machinist to turn a shaft 2 inches in diameter and 14 inches long, he will very likely ask you for some additional information, because in his line of work the state of the art assumes much higher precision of measurement, perhaps to a 10/1000 of an inch or better in diameter of the shaft, and length of perhaps +/- 1/100.
In the case of climate science, the general public expected a far higher of precision and quality than they were given, and at first took the scientists at their word that they had certain “facts” sorted out.
This brings us to the other two important values, ethics and good practice and professional judgment.
Everything I see in your discussion of post-normal science is already covered under ethics and good practice (judgment).
We expect all three from practicing scientists and engineers.
The engineer first designs the plane using the technical sciences. He figures loads and lift, vibration limits etc. Using the best state of the art techniques available to him. He then applies good professional judgment and rules of thumb for acceptable safety factors, knowing full well that he cannot know every factor involved, and may be wrong in some part of the evaluation. This is inherent in both good science and good engineering.
Your not a scientist or an engineer if you do not accept the possibility that you do not have perfect knowledge.
Then the engineer applies practical factors and uses his judgment regarding the soft aspects of the problem like cost, ease of repair, availability of materials, seasonal issues, and with those considerations in mind comes up with a design that in his best judgment is the best compromise between the soft factors and the hard technical facts as he knows them.
Last he uses his ethical compass and fully discloses the soft factors, the safety factors, and the technical processes he used in calculating the design.
He also expects and encourages others to verify his work, as it is bad professional practice to have his planes fall out of the air. He wants the answers to be right, and welcomes verification from others.
Likewise the ethical scientist, accepts up front that he cannot have prefect knowledge, and clearly describes his methods, measurements and raw data so others can verify his work.
The Dam designer (project lead) combines the raw technical calculations that went into the dam design with the soft factors like suitability of location for the intended purpose of the dam etc. and “recommends a solution”, knowing full well it is a compromise of many factors but to the best of his knowledge the technical calculations the design depends on, are accurate to the limit of his ability, and all approximations, assumptions and judgments used in the final design are fully disclosed and available on request. To do otherwise is unethical and unprofessional.
With respects, the entire concept of post-normal science is unnecessary if good ethics and full disclosure of professional judgment is used.
There would be no question about the science of global warming if the scientists involved had just used those three practices.
1) Make the scientific calculations to the limits of their talent and equipment.
2) Fully disclose the uncertainties, and assumptions they based their output on (presumption that they are not infallible, and full disclosure of biases).
3) Fully disclose the raw data so others could check their work (by definition good practice in science).
I see with in what you have written, a desire to reach what already exists in good practice.
Good scientific and engineering practice will automatically accomplish your intent as I understand it.
A good scientist says. “I believe x is true, and this is how I came to that conclusion.”
A bad (incompetent) scientist says. “X is a proven fact, and no further discussion is necessary.”
Larry

Arthur Glass
February 22, 2010 1:47 pm

‘Who is John Galt?’
Who really cares? Reading Ayn Rand’s prose is like watching two people play tennis in diving flippers.

George E. Smith
February 22, 2010 1:52 pm

“”” Leif Svalgaard (12:59:28) :
Very few scientists are concerned about philosophy and very few philosophers are concerned about science. Science is a human activity and has always had societal importance [from presaging Nile flooding to GPS-enabled devices]. So society supports science, but always with an eye on ‘what’s in it for us’. This bargain is understood. I don’t think there is such a thing as PNS in the eyes of scientists. For us, today is just business as usual. “””
Well I think you hit the nail on the head Dr Svalgaard.
Personally, I get the most satisfaction out of “discovering” whatever is the truth (to the extent that is possible). There is no joy in any emotional attachment to an idea (scientific); however weird (or simple) the truth turns out to be; that goal is where the satisfaction lies.
There is a certain beauty in theories like Planck’s theory of Blackbody radiation; which introduces no new “gizmos”, unless it is Planck’s Constant (h); and that arguably is independently available from Einstein’t Nobel Prize winning theory of the Photo-Electric effect.
To think that a theoretical concept that can actually be implemented in the laboratory with a respectable degree of accuracy, can be described as to its theoretical behavior to almost 8 significant digits, and only in terms of fundamental physical constants, that are widely accepted, is quite remarkable. No empiricism required.
Einstein’s theories of Special, and General Relativity, have a similar beauty; which is not shared with the newer ideas of strings and 10 or 11 dimensional spaces, and other gobbledegook, that has to be “tuned” to follow observed reality.
In contrast to that neatness, we who now try to follow some “Climate theory”, have to contend with stuff like Steven Schneider’s concept of “Climate Sensitivity”; with its implied Logarithmic relationship; despite the fact that we have no measured data sets that follow that logarithmic relationship with any more degree of certainty than a perfectly straight line linear relationship; or amy other mathematical function.
Yet multi trillion dollar global decisions are being made on the basis of such wild hipshoot notions, as “Climate Sensitivity”. There isn’t even any physical process basis for expecting a linear relationship between global mean surface temperatures, and the logarithm of CO2 atmospheric abundance; and plenty of physical reasons why it simply can’t be that simple a relationship. There’s nothing in that relationship, that is aware of clouds for example.

stephen richards
February 22, 2010 1:53 pm

I thank Dr Ravetz for his post and Anthony for posting. I am someone who grtew up in the war torn streets of east london and fought my way though uni to obtain qualifications in Engineering and Physics. My background his ‘streetwise’ and pragmatic. I have seen thie type of waffle spilled onto paper all my life and find it patronising and insulting. However, once you have waded through the religious niavity, the lack of understanding of the ‘common’ people, Dr Ravetz message is generally a useful contribution to the debate between the three sides of the climate change argument. Corruption and advocacy have become an integral part of climate science that’s for sure and it does not need to be understood or forgiven at this stage merely rooted out and burned like the weeds in the border.
sumpnado (13:12:32) :
Dr Ravetz cannot reply in any other way and thereby lies the problem. Communnication is a two way street and if you wish to communicate then you must find the knowledge and intelect to do so in a way that your chosen audience will understand otherwise your communnication could be viewed as patronising and inappropriate. It is the responsibility of the communnicator to communicate not the listener?.

Onion
February 22, 2010 1:53 pm

@ Bret (12:34:53)
You beat me to it.
The giant flaw in drawing 2 by 2’s (a horrible device beloved of management consultants everywhere) to divide something into 4 sectors is there may be no testing to ensure it is logically consistent. The axes in the Prof’s 2 by 2 are ’systems uncertainties’ and ‘decision stakes’. Yet it is clear that if systems uncertainties are high, we do not know whether the decision stakes are high or not. As such, we cannot prospectively place anything in the quadrant the good Prof places PNS into. It is a logical fail.
There are quite a few flaws and mistaken assertions in this essay, possibly because of its length. Here are a few things I object to:
“Indeed, once Einstein had (in the general interpretation) shown that Newton was wrong about space, no scientific statement could be assumed to be free of error.” – well this has always been a feature of science. Any great scientist knows his Nobel prize-winning insights will be proved wrong before long.
” I understood ‘normal science’ as a picture of what happens in science education, where almost all students learn by precept that for every problem there is just one and only one solution, expressed to several significant digits.” – this is just wildly wrong. Scientists had been grappling with the wave/ particle dual nature of light for some time. What I learnt at school (including through experiments on the dual nature of light) was that science advanced by careful observations, experimentation and hypotheses-formulation and nothing could be assumed. There was no presumption that ‘there is only just one solution’.
“We were convinced that in spite of the universal assumption that quantitative science has solved its problems of uncertainty, in fact there is very widespread confusion and incompetence. We designed a notational system, NUSAP, whereby these qualitative aspects of quantitative information could be effectively expressed.” We have several branches of mathematics including probability theory. We know about chaotic systems. And we know about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle relating to quantum mechanics. We would welcome more information on NUSAP, but the circumstantial evidence is that owing to its failure to gain widespread adoption, it is a failure in terms of what you intended for it. I would be delighted to be proved wrong on this – what is the ‘very widespread confusion and incompetence’ you refer to??
The ‘Dam’ problem is a straightforward political problem. Politicians routinely deal with uncertainty, including where the science is unknown. How does PNS improve decision-making over the normal political process?
Finally:
“Thus we can understand much of background to the Credit Crunch (which may soon destroy us all) when we learn that Alan Greenspan was a devotee of Ayn Rand, and therefore believed, until it was too late, that the state is evil and the markets perfect. ”
He may have been but the credit boom and crunch that followed does not follow a simple Randian cause. What happened in part was the market became concentrated and its biggest players (the big investment and retail banks) were able to buy influence in Western Governments through the lobby system, and did so to first profit, and then save themselves from bankruptcy. There is something of the evil deregulated market here, but also the corrupt influence of some market competitors on the state, followed by the evil actions of the state in supporting those competitors with our money. The state did wrong too. Central banks played a giant role too – they are positively anti-Randian in concept (not that Greenspan would agree!)

Anton
February 22, 2010 1:55 pm

Actually, “disrespect” as a verb dates from the late seventeenth and early eighteen centuries.
http://leme.library.utoronto.ca/search/results.cfm
It fell into disuse almost three hundred years ago, and was only fairly recently revived, unintentionally, by illiterate street gangs. It is always a bad word choice. “Diss” is the shortened form of “disrespect” or “dismiss,” and is even worse.

Gareth
February 22, 2010 2:02 pm

Thank you for your contribution Mr Ravetz.
My initial visceral reaction to PNS was borne from a misunderstanding. PNS is not post-normal science but post-normal science as in what we do when we think science isn’t enough.
“The basic motivation for our design of post-normal science was to help maintain the health and integrity of science under the new conditions in which it now operates.”
There are no ‘new conditions’ under which science operates. A fact is still a fact. Observable evidence is still observable evidence. Even the most accepted of theories can be disproven by one contradictary observation backed up with independent verification. PNS as practised in the real world is at best the wisdom of crowds (and in the case of AGW a very narrow and select crowd) and at worst a means for politicians, advocates and ‘scientists’ who have abandoned the scientific process (ie Phil Jones) to convince themselves that they are right regardless of any evidence to the contrary.
If the science is uncertain (and it certainly is) the correct way forward is to make no changes based on the science. The scientists at the heart of the AGW alarmism should be prepared to admit what they don’t know and politicians should stop looking for a patsy for their political decisions. By offloading the responsibility onto ‘science’ they are then capable of making the most irresponsible of decisions. There are still plenty of scientists out there who are cautious with their claims and mindful of confirmation bias, it’s just they have been excluded from the consensus building process.
The case for cutting carbon dioxide emissions can and should have be made without any contentious science, perhaps even without any science at all – The development of the world is limited by it’s reliance on fossil fuels. We don’t like some of the regimes that provide us with energy. As more nations become developed the demand for oil has risen. High energy prices adversely impact the quality of life and wealth of people across the globe. You can make wholly political cases for encouraging investment in sensible cleaner energy sources, funding research into more efficient processes etc though personally I would rather it wasn’t done with taxpayer’s money.
The more narrow the consensus the less relevancy it has to the rest of us. The more vociferous it’s nature in excluding contrarian views the less appropriate and accurate it can be when compared to reality. Leave science to scientists and politics to politicians. The AGW alarmism begins with the conclusion – that something must be done and then sets about building a very flimsy case for that ‘something’.
“But if we all calm down, we might look together at the burden of the criticisms of PNS and see whether they are fatal.”
PNS has at it’s heart a paradox – to build a consensus agreeable to all all must have their view fairly represented and incorporated into that consensus. Whoever oversees the process of building that consensus will likely weigh up contributions in relation to their own views. There is no geuninely impartial way to assess the quality of a contributing view so the outcome will always be skewed. The same error is an ever present danger with any other kind of meta-analysis. The reason for this is that everything is relative. If you are well to the left of the spectrum someone in the centre looks right-wing. If you are in the middle of the spectrum everyone else looks partisan. The centre is wherever we are as individuals.
The view of the consensus will always tend towards the view of those trying to build the consensus. It shrinks to a narrow consensus with little legitimacy rather than growing. Then, as we have seen with the IPCC, the only means to enlarge the consensus is to convince other people that you are right and they are wrong, at which point the consensus can admit people who have changed their minds. The IPCC attempted to do this by misrepresenting the science of climate change, by misrepresenting the sceptical views, by slurring anyone who did not fall into line as being in the pay of big oil and so on and so forth, including bribery with our money. They wanted the consensus to be larger without the added people having any influence on the direction the consensus points.
By promoting eco-advocates to the position of building that consensus (as the CRU file hot-proposal.doc sets out) the outcome was always going to be skewed in that direction. The consensus will always be skewed in some direction or other and thanks to Governments doing the funding and supporting of the IPCC that consensus was always going to be skewed in favour of ‘Government’.
PNS is nice on paper but impractical in the real world. Something akin to a Penrose triangle.

Anoneumouse
February 22, 2010 2:05 pm

“I developed a critical stance. For me, ‘nuclear deterrence’ was not only immoral, but also crazy”
Enough said…………he is a CND unilateralist. Unfortunately his science now manifests itself within the ethos of the European Union.
Stalin would be proud.

latitude
February 22, 2010 2:05 pm

“My deepest concern is with the situation of science in modern civilisation. Without something that we call ‘public trust’, it would be in big trouble.”
I’d say it’s in big trouble then.

Editor
February 22, 2010 2:11 pm

Ok I get the distinction between “normal” and “post-normal” science now. Back in my pre-New Math days of being educated, we called that distinction that of the Hard vs the Soft Sciences. “post-normal” implies that the “normal” hard sciences are obsolescent, and that we live in some sort of special historical time that where our existence is in such dire straits that we cannot rely on the hard sciences for answers, but unstead must turn to the mushy headed, subjective, indefinitive soft sciences to tell us what to think.
I’m sorry, but my existence will never be in such desperate circumstances.

February 22, 2010 2:12 pm

All things are political. All things are to be politicized. Not Quaker, but Marxist is Dr. Ravetz.
Science requires only one assumption: there is a real world. After this, science is about creating models of the real world which are understood to be imperfect, but which account for what is known, and successfully predict future events. Science does not fully reveal “Truth”, it only can approximate truth. Science is properly skeptical. Science’s “laws” are understood not to be divine—they will be changed if the facts derived of experiment warrant change.
Einstein did not refute Newton, he refined Newton, showing that Newton’s model cannot explain the interactions of huge masses and great energies at high velocities. Newton’s laws remain highly useful for medium-sized masses, energies, velocities, and so on—-namely most of the things germane to our daily lives. Einstein’s model is necessary for great masses, speeds near lightspeed, energies astronomical. Similarly, Quantum Mechanics, so valuable in the realm of the very small, is unnecessary for the realm of medium size wherein Newtonian physics works just fine.
Dr Ravetz, so trapped in the morally delusional world of Marxism, cannot separate Science, in its role of ever bettering our models of the real world, from Politics, which is not scientific, but instead is about organizing the power structures of groups of people and implementing their collective decisions. When Dr Ravetz corrupts Science with his Politics he comes to foolish conclusions about both.
Dr Ravetz gives the game away when he says he did not read Crichton’s book, Fear, because he could not imagine eco-terrorism. His family religion, Marxism, still deludes him. He cannot see that the “idealistic” environmentalists, as are all “idealists”, are motivated at the root by a hatred of the real world they must live in, such that they devalue the real world by wishing it were replaced by their ideal world, inchoate as it may be. The Warmist extreme, like all apocalyptic thinkers, claim the “end of the world” is nigh, because of the immoral behavior of man. This is psychopathology, and most definitely not science. Ravetz cannot see this, because he is immersed in it.

Kate
February 22, 2010 2:15 pm

The thing I learned was that the most ardent proponents of AGW honestly believe it is Unthinkable that the science might have errors. This will be a grief process for some.
I like this article. It asks the best questions.
http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2010/02/19/how-al-gore-wrecked-planet-earth/

February 22, 2010 2:18 pm

Dr. Jerome Ravetz:
We share many common experiences, but arrived at opposing conclusions.
a.) For me too ‘nuclear deterrence’ was not only immoral, but also crazy!
b.) If not for the ‘Mohole scandal’, I would have received samples from that drill through the Earth’s crust.
c.) I was also active in science, and knew many of the so-called big players – Glenn Seaborg, Hannes Alfven, Willie Fowler, Al Cameron, Harold Urey, Gerry Wasserburg, etc.
If the basic motivation for your “design of post-normal science was to help maintain the health and integrity of science”, then you failed miserably.
Exhibit A: Climategate
Exhibit B: NASA-gate
Exhibit C: DOE-gate
You say that “PNS, and in particular the ‘Extended Peer Community’ was conceived in a left-wing framework, enabling little people to fight scientific battles against big bad corporations (state and private) and professional elites.”
The ‘Extended Peer Community’ has in fact destroyed the integrity of science by limiting funds and publications to points of view that are endorsed by ~ 99% of the reviewers, i.e., to consensus science.
You ask “a favour from my more severe critics. This would be to buy a copy of my inexpensive new book, A No-Nonsense Guide to Science and examine it.”
I ask an even less expensive favor from you:
Read and then tell us your opinion of two small paragraphs from Dr. Michael Crichton’s lecture on 17 January 2003:
“Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”
–Michael Crichton, The Caltech Michelin Lecture, 17 January 2003
With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Emeritus Professor of
Nuclear & Space Sciences
Former NASA PI for Apollo

February 22, 2010 2:19 pm

I think the idea of a need for a “post-normal science” is linked to the philosophical theory that there is no empirical truth, instead there is merely an evolution of theories by falsification. IMHO this two theories of the scientific process are not distinguishable and therefore it doesn’t really make any observable difference whether you favour one or the other.
In a similar way I don’t think it is helpful to knock over our terminology and declare the spectrum of scientists, politicians, and activists as the broader community of post-normal science. Maybe one could even do this without getting into disagreement with our current understanding of science. But in the end we still won’t have solved the problems of superstition, bias, and corruption. If we can’t model climate, how can we expect to model society?

February 22, 2010 2:19 pm

Jerry Ravetz
In conclusion, I should declare an interest. My deepest concern is with the situation of science in modern civilisation. Without something that we call ‘public trust’, it would be in big trouble. What will happen as a result of Climategate? >>
I think you’ve asked the wrong question. Climategate has an obvious, large, and negative impact on the “public trust”. As individuals, we buy science all the time. We don’t call it science, we call it “products” which in the modern day have a remarkable amount of science in even the simplest devices. If they don’t work as expected, we want a refund. We’ll punish the supplier by not buying from them anymore. If their product does harm, we’ll sue them. But when governments consider destroying world economies on the basis of faulty or fraudulent science, the only impact on “public trust” is to destroy it.
The question to be asked is not what the impact is. The question is how did our public institutions become so corrupted that they could boldly state to the public that 2+2 is 5, and to say this to a public incapable of instantly seeing the falsehood. I don’t know how the first part came to be, but I believe I do the second.
Our education system fears to ascribe failure to the students it is charged with educating. Passing grades are granted to students who can neither read nor write (or in my case, spell). They may not even be able to do math. I have new hires with university degrees who can’t compute gross profit on a sale. I present the person at the till with a twenty dollar bill and two pennies to pay for a $10.02 expense and they become confused. I tell the pit boss at the local poker room that we’d like to have the top four places pay in the tournament instead of the top three, and he tells me its not possible because the computer doesn’t have that option for a tournament our sized and so “there’s no way to calculate what the prizes should be”. I explain that the earth’s orbit is elliptical and that the earth is a bit closer to the sun in NH winter than in NH summer to a bunch of grade 10 students and someone calls me an idiot because obviously winter is caused by being farther away from the sun, not closer (GRADE 10!). A teacher tells students in grade 12 that the IMF is controlled by large American oil companies and the school makes me produce evidence that it isn’t (!!!) before they make him retract the statement.
Ask not what the reaction to breach of trust by the public is. Ask why in the information age we produce students who, when told 2+2 is 5, accept it, and can’t even be bothered to disengage themselves from their cell phone for long enough to use the calculator in it to see if that is true or not. I fear that one may actually do so only to annouce that they got 4, there must be something wrong with their phone.

Phil Sage
February 22, 2010 2:25 pm

Dr Ravetz
A fascinating pair of essays. By the tone of a number of the responses you may need to try for third time lucky. I could summarise in two words as “Shit happens”. You certainly appear to me to be writing something of a mea culpa and sharing the epiphany of finding that citizen bloggers have extended the whole concept of scientific peer review.
I share the views of some above that “post normal science” is a clumsy appellation that has far too many negative connotations. I suggest advocacy science vs qualitative science.
It is a supreme irony that your comments appear on the sceptic blog that is sneered at by the “scientists” when in fact it is that group of people who need to practice introspection and understand how they got themselves to this state of affairs.
How do you propose to exonerate yourself by bringing those who continue to treat the post normal science advocacy as normal science?
Anthony
It is a privilege to be reading the intersection of minds for one of the most important issues of our time. We came so close to being overwhelmed by advocacy.

steven mosher
February 22, 2010 2:35 pm

“I think it is time to admit that many of the “Scientists” involved with promoting AGW do not “have the best of intentions.”
The problem that I have with statements like this is that they are not grounded in observation. We don’t observe INTENTIONS. we don’t observe other people’s mental states, and there is some question if we can know our own intentions. What we can observe is behavior. We can observe what they wrote and what they said and what they did. Then we can offer up hypothesis about the unobserved mental state. Reading through the mails, I find no evidence of evil intentions. I find no one saying, “we know this science is phony, lets hide our data and code” It seems clear that they believe their core science to be “true” and its also clear that they are aware of the uncertainty. Jones in fact calls it a “gut feeling” They believe that the planet is in danger and is worth saving. That’s the nobel cause. It’s also clear that they believe that breaking some rules here and there is justified because of their noble cause.
they believe that breaking these conventions and rules is justified in some way. Justified because they are under “attack” from evil skeptics, justified because of their political beliefs, justified because their gut feel is the science is correct, justified because its their job to paint a clear picture for policy makers. Note, I’m not saying these justifications hold water. I merely note them. A hoaxer and fraud and a scam artist, acts with the full knowledge that what he is selling is false. And he does this largely for personal gain. I think the scientists in question are not engaged in this kind of deception.
Saying they engaged in Noble cause corruption doesnt mean all their intentions are Noble or just. If a cop joins the force because he feels that justice is a good and noble cause, his misdeeds don’t undo the fact of his noble motivations. His misdeeds dont make all other cops guilty. Planting evidence on a guilty person, doesnt make the person innocent. It does call into question the results of the process. This is why, for example, when a police lab goes “bad” lawyers look to retry cases that have gone through that lab.
It pays to be specific, especially when you are hypothesizing about somebodies motives. So, I bristle when people make general charges about “the scientists” . An example will be helpful.
Why did Jones refuse to send code to Mcintyre in early 2005?.
because he KNEW the code was a fraud? no evidence of that.
because he knew it was in error? no evidence of that.
because he wasnt sure if he could find it? yup thats what he says in private
because it was an undocumented mess? yup thats what he says in private.
because the code would help Mc figure out some missing steps? Yup, jones says he knows why Mc cant reproduce the results. dirty tricks.
Does he say no because he wrongly thinks Mcintyre is part of a conspiracy?
probably, Jones has admitted to a bunker mentality.
is that a good thing? no.
does that make the science wrong? no, it does put it into doubt.
Did they think their cause was Noble? all evidence points that way.
were all their intentions noble? no.
why did they engage in less than noble actions? because they believed the ends justifies the means. and also for more mundane reasons. pride, reputation, peer pressure, sloppiness.
So what do you do when you have a case of a bad cop? Do you accuse them all? Do you say, this white cop is guilty of framing this black guy, therefore all cops are racist? and every jail should be emptied? Do you point at all the good cops and say.. “hey look, these cops are good, therefore all convictions should stand” As I look at the various sides in this debate, this example of the good cop gone bad is instructive. A good step toward re establishing trust would be to list the incidents and the players. Retract the papers written by them and recompile the science. If the AGW folks are right, nothing much will change. And take a lesson from the police in this kind of affair. You probably want to engage the larger community in order to rebuild trust, ya the skeptics. And when you get invited in skeptics, mind your manners.

Fred Harwood
February 22, 2010 2:40 pm

Thanks, Phil.

Bob Kutz
February 22, 2010 2:45 pm

Jerome,
1) I agree wholeheartedly that ad hominem attacks have little use in scientific discourse. I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve occasionally sunk to that level myself. However, the warmist pundits and scientists can claim no superiority here. By and large, this has been their rebuttal of record to skeptic’s challenge. That and subversion of the peer review process itself.
2) At what point do you see the climate-gate material as an indictment of pro-warmist science, post normal or otherwise? I think the code to be far more damaging than the emails, yet the MSM and the scientists involved haven’t addressed this at all.
3) Can we at least agree that the scientific process involves open sharing of (un-manipulated) data and methods, that science improves with critique, rather than with hiding of the formerly mentioned data and methods and ad-hominem attacks that have been the tack of the pro-warmists for at least a decade?
4) I find your final point; paraphrased as; ‘What will happen to science when the world discovers that scientists are susceptible to political and other influence?’ to be very poignant. I suggest that the scientific community could benefit greatly in that regard by strongly guarding against advocacy on any issue. That is where the science usually starts to fail.
Lastly, my take is that, for the moment at least, the scientific community has begun to take note of the shenanigans that have taken place within climate science, and they aren’t too happy about it. Further, it’s interesting to note that the non-scientific pro-warmist pundits have failed to notice. Phil Jones (et. al.) ought to be more vocal in his repudiation of the errors he has helped to perpetrate.
The pro-AGW pundits continue with their ad-hominem attacks, appeals to authority, and citation of discredited science and statistics largely unabated. The problem here is that the scientists who’ve been involved with agenda based science have been all too quiet when evidence arises against their science. They circling the wagons instead of inviting debate. This has allowed the debate to continue on known false evidence for far too long. Quite a few people have no notion that the ‘hockey stick’ has been largely discredited, and continue to argue that world-wide receding glaciers are absolute proof of global warming (nevermind the outright fallacious arguments regarding the sinking pacific atols). Further; most have no idea that the relation between increased atmospheric CO2 and increasing temperatures is only correlation, and that no scientific evidence exists for a link outside of a small scale lab experiment involving bottled gas’ and heat lamps.
In conclusion; a nice article, but the debate you want to entertain is so far removed from the issues at hand as to be irrelevant. We are so far from understanding what drives our climate as to render any policy moves based on current science to be little more valuable than the advice witch doctors. Further, the ‘science’ that has been conducted in the last 20 years has been outright harmful to our understanding of climate. I believe we’ve created a lot of climate ‘scientists’ in the last 20 years who are due a refund from their respective institution of higher learning, and will need a brigade of physicists and statisticians to come behind them and clean up the mess. In fact, I think we may need a large body of historians just to resurrect the actual instrument temperature reading from source documents for the last 150 years. Certainly what we’ve been left with from the current crop of stewards of this information is of highly dubious provenance.
Thank you for your candid epiphany, short of the mark as it was.

Ron
February 22, 2010 2:53 pm

Thank you, Dr. Ravetz’s. I have read both parts of your essay and most of the comments. I noted with interest your background and political sensitivities and what speaks so well of you is your achievement of seeking real solutions to scientific conflict in spite of them.
I know you consider them experiences that have aided you on this journey but most would have not have broken free and it is hard to come away from a thoughtful reading of your writings with anything other than a respect for the breadth of thought that you have put into this and an overall sense of an absence of any troubling biases.
I have followed the AGW research in great detail for 15 years and my studies have led me to the skeptic camp but I very much welcome this level of serious thinking. Yes we in the skeptic corner understand the concept of ‘diss’ very well.
You serve the community well and I will be looking forward to your future post. Thanks to you Anthony for including posts like these.

royfomr
February 22, 2010 2:58 pm

Thank you Dr Ravetz for another thoughtful essay. Thanks also to Anthony for providing the space.
One sentence, among many :), stood out the most for me.
” For me the biggest issue is ‘normal scientists’ doing research that is competent in its own terms, but whose ‘unintended consequences’ can be harmful or indeed total. ”
I was first made aware of the “Law of Unintended Consequences” by one of the sharpest bloggers in town; Prof. John Brignal of the UK site numberwatch.
Visit his site for many examples of the LOUC at work.
Sadly, Dr R, I think that your studies may well, in future, join the list of LOUC examples. It won’t be because of your intellect or reasonings or writings. In such areas, to me at least, you are awesome!
Your labelling, IMHO, has let you down. Badly!
The term “Post Normal Science” was a huge mistake. Its catchy, I’ll grant you that, but you knew that anyway. Catchiness is just fine when applied to everyday promotions. When selling washing powder, “New Improved Raz” is a slogan that keeps advertising agencies in business. Science is not up for sale.
People bought your ideas and big-time. Unfortunately, they were not the people that you had targetted! How many could understand your nuances of thought, your caveats, your carefully worded warnings of uncertainty? Darned few, i’d guess.
How many took just your PNS label and used it to corrupt and enslave that most fruitful, for better or for worse, servant of Man. Science!
Sir, I love your way of thinking, the little that I’ve seen to date but your sincerity comes over even better. I truly hope that your epitath is not.
What have I done.

February 22, 2010 3:00 pm

[Snip. Fake email address. ~mod.]

Pascvaks
February 22, 2010 3:00 pm

Dr. Ravetz : “Post-Normal Science (PNS)… Its core is the mantram, ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’. We are not saying that this is a desirable, natural or normal state for science. We place it by means of a diagram, a quadrant-rainbow with two axes. These are ’systems uncertainties’ and ‘decision stakes’. When both are small, we have ‘applied science’, which must be the vast majority of scientific work in keeping civilisation running. When either is medium, we have ‘professional consultancy’, like the surgeon or consultant engineer. The basic insight of PNS is that there is another zone, where either attribute is large.”
_________________________
You are a true philosopher Doctor. You deal in the ‘Ought’a Be’. You provide a dais upon which the people can stand and work to build a new and different tomorrow. Though I personally doubt that when you look down upon their efforts you will be satisfied. I think your ‘Extended Peer Community’ (the Web) is already in place and will grow and get stronger. I have a feeling that your work will carry on long into the future, a’la Locke, etc.. Perhaps some day more ’Franklins’ and less lawyers will run for office. (What is life without ‘feelings’?)
Any opinions on improving basic and advanced education?

Stephen Garland
February 22, 2010 3:07 pm

Re: chip (10:54:50) Yes we need separation of Science and State!
We just need normal science with its error bars. If the uncertainity is too high, do nothing.
PNS sucks!

Robert
February 22, 2010 3:11 pm

“Toto (10:47:33) :
“normal” and “post-normal” are just descriptions, not definitions, and I think inadequate. I will stick with “pure” science, which to me is “finding things out”. You don’t need to define “truth” or “quality” to understand that. There is no goal other than understanding. If your science needs a goal, then you are really talking about engineering.”
I agree. There is a distinction between doing science, and using science. Engineers, doctors, pastry chefs — they all use science to achieve what they want to achieve. Science doesn’t care if a patient dies, or a bridge collapses, or a cake falls. It’s about knowledge, not results.
I don’t see any reason to redefine science in order to apply the results of science to policy. It’s better to let science do what it does — what it has done very successfully since the scientific revolution — expand our knowledge about the physical world. What we do with that knowledge — how we translate it into policy, as informed by our values — is a separate problem.

JonFrum
February 22, 2010 3:12 pm

freakin’ Commie!

Mari Warcwm
February 22, 2010 3:15 pm

I read it all the way through, and to be quite honest I don’t understand what he is talking about. I suggested to my Balliol First Class Hons husband that he might like to read it and tell me where Ravetz was coming from.
If you can’t understand it, it probably doesn’t make any sense was his verdict.

February 22, 2010 3:17 pm

I think it repays people on this blog to read what Professor Ravetz has written in small digestible chunks rather than simply coming out with “tl;dr”
Professor Ravetz was not making a single point or a single thesis. Nor was he claiming omniscience about the proper state of science (rather a rarity amongst academics, therefore).
There are many points with the analysis with which I disagree and I feel Ravetz has missed the point.
For example, just because the consequences of global warming research lead to policy initiatives promoted (wrongly) by the scientists-as-advocates is a bad idea, the real objection I have to PNS is the notion that scientific ethics and the scientific method can be seen as relative and not absolute strictures upon scientific behaviour.
The plain fact is that neither this site nor Climate Audit nor others would have needed to exist if there had been an insistence on scientific rigour by academic institutions, by funding agencies, by governments and the UN.
That isn’t PNS, it’s a wholesale collapse of the scientific paradigm. No wonder the public are skeptical and cynical when massive disruption of their future lives is threatened based upon apocalyptic scaremongering of a type we have seen regularly occurring for hundreds of years.
There IS a “gold standard” for scientific inquiry and climate science has fallen far short. Little wonder that mainstream scientists are now refusing to have anything to do with climate science and unrelated scientific papers are now being smeared by association – but that’s the rotten fruit of the witch-mania orchestrated by a very few scientists amplified by the UN and not a few environmentalist groups who have raked in billions of dollars from the panic.
What happens next? Collapse.
With a sea-change in public distrust towards climate scientists, everyone will feel the effects as suspicious politicians cut science budgets drastically.
Then PNS will become NS again.
In a generation or less, people will be extremely dubious that a large part of the scientific community can have lost their heads so completely over changes of a few tenths of a degree in a statistical index based upon dubious data.

Mark
February 22, 2010 3:19 pm

Some of these comments are bizarre.
I’d like to address those harping on about Ravetz’s self-referentialisationalism. The point, which is obvious, which is clear from the title, the section on Delingpole, and the closing section about ‘dissing’, is that he has been forced into writing so much personal context because so many responses to his initial article were aimed at his personal history rather than what he was actually arguing. It is disingenuous in the extreme to ignore that point.

Robert
February 22, 2010 3:19 pm

“We just need normal science with its error bars. If the uncertainity is too high, do nothing.”
Well, if it’s incredibly high, I agree. But in the non-scientific endeavor of applying science to our goal, you have to take into account the relative risks of action and inaction.
We usually hospitalize people who present with anginal chest pain, even though, statistically speaking, 95% of them are NOT having a heart attack. The risks of inaction outweigh the risks and cost of acting unnecessarily.
You have to make those kinds of distinctions in applying science to policy. If you think there is a 10% of a really horrible outcome, it’s perfectly reasonable to take steps to prevent it. The scientist may even be frustrated by this — you have interfered in her experiment and thwarted her opportunity to collect objective outcomes data! — but in applying science, what we care about is the outcome.

Harry MacDougald
February 22, 2010 3:19 pm

steven mosher (12:40:02) :
Ravetz may not be Derrida, but the fundamental point, common to all deconstructionist, modernist philosophical relativists is that the Truth is Dead and should be supplanted with some other construct, here “Quality,” in other contexts usually some form of radical egalitarianism for historically oppressed groups like left-handed red-headed lesbian transsexual dwarves.
But as Richard S Courtney (12:42:38) pointed out, “Quality” in this specific context is entirely devoid of content, just as the other substitutes offered up by the Stanley Fishes and Mark Tushnets and other lefty radicals who do the same termite work in their own fields are also devoid of content. They want it that way so they can manipulate the process to make it come out the way they want – to serve radical leftist agendas.
At Copenhagen Robert Mugabe and Hugo Chavez were getting their post-normal groove on, demanding money for climate justice and an end to capitalism, and got standing ovations. Monckton got beat up by the police.
As a construct to explain decision-making when there is high uncertainty and high stakes, I just don’t see how PNS helps in any way. If that’s all it is – which it isn’t – it’s just academic flapdoodle that restates the obvious – sometimes you have to make hard decisions with incomplete information.
Does the construct apply to AGW? Depends on who’s talking. The IPCC took it out of the post-normal quadrant of high uncertainty – high stakes by saying there was no doubt about it. On the other hand, post normal avatar Mike Hulme had been saying that it was highly uncertain, but the stakes were so urgent that “Climate change is too important to be left to scientists – least of all the normal ones.”
So instead of standing on the ground and telling the truth, they climbed up a telephone pole to tell a lie, and advocate their position in order to save the world.
As for the quality of Quality, the IPCC bragged constantly about their “Quality,” peer review, consensus, etc., etc. as does the EPA in their GHG Endangerment Finding. They are so in love with themselves that even when a claim is proven to be a deliberate fraud, they say, well, apart from that it’s accurate. Pay no attention to those empirical results – we have Quality Models and they all agree, and besides, we’re saving the world!
So what has caused this great unraveling?
It has been that their claims were not True, and that the networked expertise on the internet facilitated the propagation of that fact.
Best regards,

HotRod
February 22, 2010 3:21 pm

Well, i read the piece until my smug-detector went into overload. It may be brilliant, I don’t say it isn’t, but please, orotund again is not a big enough word.
Then I speed-read the comments, and find myself again on the same page as Mosher – you can only observe behaviour, not thoughts or intentions. It’s the same as dating – they (and you) say all sorts of things, but WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY DO? That’s the key.

Brent Hargreaves
February 22, 2010 3:24 pm

Having read the first third of this magnificent document, I shouldn’t yet be commenting. But Mr. Ravetz has traced out in a few short paragraphs an intellectual journey which has taken many of us decades to make.
Anthony, in presenting us this thinker you have surpassed yourself.
This Great Debate is a decisive moment in the history of science.
What a rich feast we are partaking in! No more need we envy Newton and Hooke, or Bohr and Planck, their exciting times. History is being made, and much to our surprise the great leap forward is not in some new process or particle, but in How Science is Done.

Kay
February 22, 2010 3:24 pm

@ Paul Remfry (11:42:48) : An interesting and thoughtful piece, but full of many names, but no numbers. I agree with the comments on dissing. They really are not useful in dialogue and respect should be agreed and given amongst civilised men. However the attitude of the Global warming fraudsters is usually not civilised. If you look at a man I would describe as a scientist as he has been there and done it – he is uncivilly treated by the man who calls himself a green, but who is in fact a self-opinionated bigot. How do you deal with such people?”
You don’t. There’s no reasoning with them at all. So, you do the only thing you can do: let them keep talking. Give them enough rope and eventually they hang themselves. Sooner or later, people get turned off by their tactics and see them for what they truly are. You just have to have patience.

Pooh
February 22, 2010 3:25 pm

Here is a side note (literally) dating from the early 1930’s. The source of the images is angeladavis.org; at this writing, it is unreachable. However, the picture credits are:
http://angeladavis.org/pics/WalkerSE_med.JPG
http://angeladavis.org/pics/WalkerSE_lower.JPG
Gage, Lawrence. “Real Physics: “You Shall Be as Gods”?.” Real Physics, February 15, 2008. Walker Memorial Description
The mural is:
The lower portion reads:

steven mosher
February 22, 2010 3:25 pm

Stephen Garland (15:07:11) :
If the uncertainty is high, do nothing?
That’s an odd prescription. First there is the question of what is “high enough”
You have cancer. The doctor tells you that the procedure to cure you has
a 75% chance of curing you. you have a 25% chance of dying. The procedure
costs a million dollars. you have a million dollars in the bank. without the procedure, you have a 5% chance of living. that’s the spontaneous remission rate. Untreated, the life expectancy, is 10 more years with a SD of 2 years.
you are 67. decide.
same case. the drug prescribed costs 2 cents. the probablity it will work is 50%. the data backing this up is highly uncertain. decide.
One point that everyone misses here I think is that post normal science by definition involves human values. life, liberty, things like that.
Its not the science of super conductivity. It’s not the science of electrons moving through wires. the centrality of VALUES to the object of investigation is key

Veronica (England)
February 22, 2010 3:33 pm

I think what is being touched on in some of these comments is the non-experimental nature of climate science. With this, as with evolution and with economics, it is close to impossible to do an experiment in the classical way, with all variables minimised, effects isolated and measured, and proper controls included. Therefore there is much less certainty in this kind of science than in the sort that many of us are used to. Everything is fuzzier, greyer and more hypothetical than we would all like.

Leo G
February 22, 2010 3:34 pm

I want a grant to study the specifics behind the “Long Post Cunnumdrum”.
Abstract:
It appears that whenever WUWT gets a long detailed post, there is a 63.726% chance that every 3.78923 replies will match or exceed the original word post.
This then leads to maritial strife, as wives start complaining about equal access to the computer!
Again, thanx to Anthony and all the Big Oil supported staff here for wasting another day of my life!
:)~

INGSOC
February 22, 2010 3:34 pm

I am grateful to Professor Ravitz, as well as those who commented for an enlightening and hope inspiring read. I am convinced that we are in fact deep in the throws of a modern dark age in science and knowledge, and by extension civilization itself. The group mind, or mob as Dr Ravitz eloquently puts it, has once again seized control of learning. It will take a lot of hard work and perhaps generations to undo the damage.
Once again, many thanks.

wsbriggs
February 22, 2010 3:38 pm

I must agree with Dave McK. He is justifying parasitism.

Allen
February 22, 2010 3:39 pm

For those that have actually studied Kuhn’s work (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions), please clarify for my benefit what he meant by Normal Science and Revolutionary Science. It seems that there is some confusion among these posts, and in order for anyone to start understanding Ravetz we must know the arguments of Kuhn, Popper, et al.
I took a Philosophy of Science course and it was an eye-opener. I wish I could have spent more time on Kuhn.

Douglas DC
February 22, 2010 3:41 pm

From Dr. Ravetz’s article:
” The evidence for that is that while I found most of Michael Crichton’s novels quite illuminating, I never bothered to read Fear. It was simply implausible to me that environmentalists would create a terror attack. And plausibility goes a long way in conditioning expectations and even perceptions. Live and learn.”
Ah ok. What about Earth First! ALF,ELF,et.al.? Even AlQueda’s leadership are
warmists, if BIn Lauden is to be believed. Human nature is far more devious and cunning. It hasn’t changed for thousands of years by my reckoning.
Personally knew people who were hurt economically by the ELF torching
the Willamette USFS offices, the Various lumber company offices and buildings in Medford, Or. back in the 90’s . We haven’t changed since we
go mad at the other tribe for making use of stone and fire and using their left hands while doing so…..
However, I do enjoy the discussion of the post.

Andy the Whistle
February 22, 2010 3:43 pm

You should not have abandoned ‘Truth’ so lightly. Your initial example demonstrates why. Newton’s work remains as True as ever it was, and is used by engineers every day making things our lives depend on. Einstein’s progress did not inavlidate this Truth in any way, Einstein merely saw a bigger picture. Hence, it remains only to define the frame of the picture when one talks about a particular Truth. If, within a particular frame, Truth cannot be established, it is called ‘uncertaintly’. Uncertainty can be quantified, but call a spade a spade, it remains uncertainty. The problem with those who too fervently believe in AGW, is that they do not acknowledge uncertainty, even when it is present in such quantities as to swamp their central theory.

Mark
February 22, 2010 3:50 pm

wsbriggs, evidence please. Where is the attempt to justify anything other than his own ideas? And if that’s all he’s doing where is the parasitism?

Pooh
February 22, 2010 3:53 pm

Re: Pooh (Feb 22 15:25),
Oops! I guess I didn’t know the house rules. My fault. Either the links to images or the size of the images must have disqualified them. The source site remains unreachable. Anyhow, you can see the mural here by copying them into your browser’s address bar.
Mural: http://mysite.verizon.net/cache.22/WalkerSE_med(mod).JPG
Closeup of bottom: http://mysite.verizon.net/cache.22/WalkerSE_lower(mod).JPG
The bottom reads: Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
That seems apt.

hotrod ( Larry L )
February 22, 2010 3:53 pm

steven mosher (15:25:52) :
Stephen Garland (15:07:11) :
If the uncertainty is high, do nothing?

One point that everyone misses here I think is that post normal science by definition involves human values. life, liberty, things like that.
Its not the science of super conductivity. It’s not the science of electrons moving through wires. the centrality of VALUES to the object of investigation is key

We already use that approach in exactly the context you suggest.
The primary dictum of medicine is :
First do no harm!
The climate scientists would be well served to understand that you cannot blend two mutually incompatible processes.
Scientific fact finding and applying moral values to the implications of the answers are separate processes that absolutely must be separate. If you merge the two into an indistinct homogenized whole you can no longer trust either the science or the values.
A doctor makes a series of discrete medical tests on a patient. He then documents the results. Then and only then he has to make a value judgment regarding the proper course, and issues his recommendation.
If done properly the patient can then take the results of those tests (uncontaminated by the value judgments) to a second physician for a second opinion.
The second physician has the option of taking the test results at face value or re-running some of the tests to confirm there were not false positives or a mix up a the lab. She then has the option of confirming the recommended action or offering an alternative. Likewise the patient has the option of weighing the recommendations of both physicians and taking yet a third corrective action.
AGW proponents are like a doctor that won’t show you your medical records and says trust me your going to die unless you take this red pill right now.
Sorry I want a second opinion and want a copy of the medical tests to judge for myself. Especially since this doctor and his staff have a long history of making diagnostic mistakes or exaggerated claims of risk to peddle pills sold by the Carbon Credit Market.
Larry

Robinson
February 22, 2010 3:56 pm

Public trust is and has always been my primary concern here. With Science probably the only balwark against the irrational, it’s dangerous that in modern society its currency is being devalued.

Indiana Bones
February 22, 2010 3:58 pm

… I identified all the critics on their blogs (and especially this one) as the new Extended Peer Community in this post-normal science situation. For they have been doing the job of quality-assurance that, in some cases at least, was not done by the mainstream. They might have to decide now whether they really want to belong to an Extended Peer Community, and thereby validate post-normal science.
While I enjoy reading the work of gifted wordsmiths, and your smithing is amply capable – the above statement is the only thing I take away from your post. And I cannot agree. Not only because you assume the skeptical blogosphere to confirm your theory of PNS, but I have fundamental trouble with the term – “Post Normal.”
Professor, how in the world can we consider that integrity to scientific principle and method, as demanded by the majority here, is in any way abnormal – pre or post?? Critics here demand little more than integrity in method; access to data, code and methodology by which warmists derive their claims. Add to this a demand for open, clear transparency in discussing their claims.
Take for example, the recent BBC interview with Dr. Phil Jones former head of UEA Climatic Research Unit. In the interview Dr. Jones agreed with the BBC’s statement that there had been “no statistically significant global warming since 1995.” Dr. Jones agrees with this simple statement. Yet, almost no other media outlet (none in the US) carried this story except the Daily Mail and of course, the blogs. Understand sir, the bleak shadow this casts upon the “mainstream” media. THIS dear Professor, is post-normal behavior! It is closed, opaque censorship of the worst kind.
Let’s forget the esoteric arcana for the moment and ask the simple question: What is it that these well-funded, “mainstream” news organizations all find so terrifying about Dr. Jones’ statement? I suggest that in the answer you will also find the source of your PNS.

February 22, 2010 4:02 pm

Dr. Ravetz, your writing brings back strong memories of my 1st year philosophy prof who, finding me the only science major in his philosphy class, gave me as my major project the analysis of Polanyi’s “Personal Knowledge”. The main things I still carry with me from that time are that, except in certain very limited cases, scientific objectivity is not possible and that science is based on a network of trust relationships. I’ll have to dig up my copy of Personal Knowledge again to see what it’s like to re-read it after almost 40 years.
I welcome your open mindedness in this debate as one of the great problems that has occurred in the AGW debate is the manufactured certainty on the warmist side that is not open to question. Aside from mathematics, there is no certainty in science. Now I that I know your initial philosophical position I will note that I am a Libertarian physician working in primary care and former neuroscience researcher and programmer. I never was able to specialize because I found everyting interesting.
In your example of post-normal science you give the various issues surrounding the placement of a dam. I beg to differ as I consider the calculation of potential energy of the head of water and forces on the dam to be science, the construction of the dam to be engineering and the siting of the dam to be a matter for representatives of the population to decide. In no way is this science unless one is looking at the modelling of networks of individuals holding differing points of view on where the dam should be and how high it is.
As a generalist I find that unless I set specific boundaries for my medical role, I end up in places where I have no place in being. Thus, while a patients problems may be social in nature and their somatization is the result of a bad marriage and financial problems, I deal with the medical issues of that patient and refer them on to psychologists to deal with their interpersonal issues. The post-normal science that you describe has boundaries that are too porous. The medical equivalent of this boundaryless science is the “quantum healing” and similar quackery where people take a little from very disparate areas and create what seems to be a reasonable way of approaching a problem but it falls apart when subject to any critical scrutiny.
The problem as I see it is maintaining a balance between overspecialization and overgeneralization. The natural tendency of scientists is to delve deeper and deeper into their subject area and, in my own case, I started with work on conscious cat brains and thencefrom to guinea pig trigeminal ganglion cells (as they are spherical and easier to model) and then to slices of trigeminal ganglion and finally to patch-clamping a small chunk of membrane where one could study just a few ion channels in isolation. The head of the lab was interested in action of anesthetics on neurons and this was a very logical progression for him, but I wanted to know how brains worked and medical school seemed like a much more likely way of pursuing my interests.
In medicine, the problems that are studied are those which will make money for drug companies. This is a perfectly laudable goal as the net result is that more diseases are amenable to treatment, pharmaceutical industry investors make money and everything is rosy. What is missing from this is the non-profitable pharmacotherapies which never get studied. Vitamin D deficiency is endemic in Canada and prevention of MS and Crohn’s disease are two of the possible benefits to Vitamin D supplementation. Yet, there is not one large double blind placebo controlled study on Vitamin D because there is no money to be made selling vitamin D. Colleagues of mine I’ve talked to refuse to recommend high doses of vitamin D “because there is no study supporting such use”, and, in the current medical research environment there never will be such a study unless a wealthy philantropist funds one.
I thought medical science was the most extreme in terms of distortion of research priorities because of what projects will be funded until I began digging into climate science. My inclination in science is to go wherever my findings take me which is why I fund my own little areas of research since I don’t have to apply for grant money. It also means that productivity is quite low since I spend most of my time doing medicine.
What has struck me the most about the failings of climate science is the marked ignorance of fundamentals. Chiefio had an example of how one single line of poorly written FORTRAN code resulted in 0.5 C warming depending on what compiler was used. It appears that the programmers had not taken a single course in numerical methods but knowing the results of roundoff error is crucial when one does millions of additions. Similarly, even though Lorenz was the first to notice chaos in climate, all of the models steer away from chaos even though what defines local climate is chaos. Instead we have linear deterministic models which are useless. The advantage of confining oneself to a limited area means that one gets very very good at working in that area.
In contrast to your post-normal science what I instead propose is multi-disciplinary teams where one takes specialists who are very good in their tiny area of science and links them with generalists who have more limited knowlege but greater breadth of knowledge. This results in work which crosses many boundaries but is more rigorous. Every medical paper I’ve ever seen that has the term “post-modern” in it is useless and has provided me with no new information whatever. My personal way of doing this is to logically analyze everything and then go with my somatic markers which are my right orbitofrontal cortex’s way of telling me that I’m on the right track (somatic marker is more acceptable in medical circles than “gut feeling” and I can quote D’Amasio’s work on somatic markers if I’m pressed further).

Pascvaks
February 22, 2010 4:08 pm

Philosophy is like art. You get out of it what you allow to enter your mind. For some the feeling is entrancing, for others the feeling is sickening; both have taken too much.

WWIII
February 22, 2010 4:10 pm

The political body called the IPCC gave a brief to selected scientists that was nothing to do with the naturally occurring events of climate change, but all to do with only anthropogenic global warming. When the data to prove AGW could not be found and the hypothesis could not be proved using the scientific method, the scientists did all that was revealed in the Climategate papers, as published on the internet (but not expected to be verified by the current inquiry at UEA/CRU). Further manipulation, falsifications and malpractices were carried out by others and also published on the internet. There has not been any proof whatsoever that AGW exists to any measurable extent, but fortunately much proof has emerged through the work of real scientists concerning climate change – with more in train.
Whether what was done by the scientists in the employ of the IPCC could be called ‘pre-science’, ‘post-science’, ‘incompetent science’, ‘fraudulent science’ or even ‘post-normal science’ it is certainly not anything that could be accorded the title of Properly Conducted Science carried out in accordance with the term Scientific Method.
Dr Ravetz appears to be saying – using very erudite prose – everything about himself, but nothing about the original subject matter.

Julian in Wales
February 22, 2010 4:13 pm

Like you I was influenced by going to a Quaker school, when I read your piece I found myself sometimes illuminated and at other times lost. Parts of what you are saying resonates with my personal thoughts; except in my case I want to apply your lessons to Art, Religion (well our sense of being part of something greater than ourselves), Debate (or politics) as well as to Science.
This concentration on the word “quality” was very intersting. I agree it is a missing element, and to me your being courteous is merely an extension of your passion for quality. There is quality around, this blog being one example, but it seems to me we are drowning because the islands of quality are surrouded by a culture that no longer respects or admires quality. This is really shocking me.
My question to you is how do we get our shared passion for quality back into the mainstream of our culture?

John L
February 22, 2010 4:13 pm

Then came the notorious Post-Normal Science, which until now has not really attracted very much attention in the mainstream. I’ve met people who found it an inspiration and liberation, as it enabled them to recognise the deep uncertainties in their scientific work that colleagues wished to ignore. Its core is the mantram, ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’. We are not saying that this is a desirable, natural or normal state for science. We place it by means of a diagram, a quadrant-rainbow with two axes. These are ’systems uncertainties’ and ‘decision stakes’. When both are small, we have ‘applied science’, which must be the vast majority of scientific work in keeping civilisation running. When either is medium, we have ‘professional consultancy’, like the surgeon or consultant engineer. The basic insight of PNS is that there is another zone, where either attribute is large.
This mantra exemplifies the problem specific to catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. The problem of course with the inclusion of ‘stakes high and decisions urgent’, is that ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute’ are inherent to all science, and in fact these concepts are fundamental aspects of the scientific discovery process, while ‘stakes high and decisions urgent’ are inherently pre determined judgment calls – preceding, or entirely outside of, the scientific process – and are therefore entirely too subject to bias and manipulation.
This is an important distinction, and what separates catastrophic anthropogenic global warming from all other science, except perhaps the study and monitoring of viral pandemics. Not being a CAGW believer myself, I can only imagine what the pressure must be like on those in the scientific community who actually believe that the fate of their grandchildren might rest on their conclusions. Not only will the science tend to self-select towards research and results that support the predetermined ‘stakes high and decisions urgent’, but it leaves too much room for the precautionary principle, and diminishes both ‘Truth’ and ‘Quality’ in the set of principles which guide your conclusions.
In other words, the principle of ‘never forget that you might be wrong’, loses a lot of it’s significance once you believe that ‘I can’t afford to be wrong’ and you have already determined that all the risks are on one side of the scale.

February 22, 2010 4:15 pm

Robert (15:19:34) :
We usually hospitalize people who present with anginal chest pain, even though, statistically speaking, 95% of them are NOT having a heart attack. The risks of inaction outweigh the risks and cost of acting unnecessarily.
You have to make those kinds of distinctions in applying science to policy. If you think there is a 10% of a really horrible outcome, it’s perfectly reasonable to take steps to prevent it.>>
Robert, if I don’t raise $1 million for for my church (which I own) by the end of this week, I predict that I will die by the hand of my own deity. This is a very horrible outcome, and it is pretty reasonable to take steps to prevent it, particularly since its a church (did I mention I own it?) and I promise you it will only do good things with the money like building a large house in a deperately poor country so that I will have somewhere to stay when I travel there to preach to them. I know you probably don’t have $1 million so you will be pleased to know that spreading the pain amongst you and your friends is OK. I’m assuming you have 9 friends, which comes to $100,000 each. Would you like to pay by credit card? I can even spread the payments out over the course of a year, though I have to charge you interest.
If the tax payer were to leap every time there was a prediction of doom, we would be bankrupt a thousand times over in days just from the genuine (but wrong) predictions, and in hours by the less than genuine ones trying to fleece us. When the claim of a horrible outcome is based on misrepresented science, data that we’re not allowed to see (or is “missing” entirely), and outright lies that have been admitted to as “pressure” tactics to force governments to act, then we, the tax payer, know that this particular call to action belongs on the less than genuine pile.
If I had evidence of the impending demise of humanity due to some preventable disaster, I would present every shred of evidence that I had, to as many people as I could, as fast as I could. The fact that the solution to the impending disaster is for money to be spent while the evidence remains cloaked in secrecy ought to tell you something.
BTW, I have consulted with my deity, who advises that if I die, you will too. I remind you that this is a horrible thing, and though the chance of it happening in your opinion may be small, it can be prevented by you and your friends sending me that money right away. They’re your friends, they’ll understand.

John L
February 22, 2010 4:16 pm

Oops, everything from “This mantra” on is mine, and should not be in blockquote, not sure why it came out that way.

February 22, 2010 4:28 pm

EdB (12:02:52) :I cannot be other than amazed at how Steve Mcintyre is logical, lucid, and brief, while Jerry Ravetz is wordy and convoluted. Ten thousand Jerrys would not debunk the hockey stick, and that is the truth of it.
I agree. Yet what I’ve appreciated most here is the *space* between Ravetz and the comments. I feel the commentators, en masse, but not individually, have got the finger on the pulse of Science and what-is-truth better than Ravetz; yet this linking to establishment and tradition, through Ravetz’ dissertation, has somehow given the wine here a good flavour.
Nineteenth-century philosophy was IMO a forerunner of post-modernist “relativism” that insists the world is not as you once believed it was when you were ten years old: that there is no objective reality of “truth” as the naive ten-year-old still believes. These philosophers were pessimists and their path became a dead-end. The high respect that used to exist for philosophy blew up in the face of the first World War. That left a vacuum, which was presently filled ad-hoc by postmodernism.
Now if you just take the core belief-system of postmodernism, and take it to its logical conclusion, it can be seen to go round in a circle and fail by its own principles. Its first usefulness is thus that by deconstructing itself, it allows you to reaffirm with adult experience what you once knew about truth and science as a ten-year-old with innocence. Its second usefulness is that this reaffirmation comes with all the rigor of proof needed to stand its ground. Now although the proof lies within yourself; yet it is qualitatively as real, and as useful, as any proof of mathematics.

February 22, 2010 4:30 pm

From the Quaker principle: ‘never forget that you might be wrong’.
The engineer in me shudders when I read that. Engineers (I am a chemical engineer – and a lawyer) had better not be wrong. We don’t have that luxury; for when engineers get it wrong, people die. The news outlets – and the court cases – are replete with examples.
Engineers never, ever, forget that we might be wrong, so a good engineer falls back on the fundamentals – that which is never wrong. The legal term for one aspect of this, in the U.S., is RAGAGEP. This acronym stands for Recognized And Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practice. Other disciplines have similar standards, one such is GAAP for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
Many of my contacts are puzzled at some of my writings and statements, as they see the world in far more shades of gray than do I. They wonder just how I can be so adamant that I am right. The answer is simple: fundamentals of engineering are right. As just one example, a given grade of steel has a certain strength at a given temperature. Engineers use this fact to design and build all sorts of structures, from bridges to boilers to boxcars.
The fundamentals are also very useful in a law practice, where defendants did not adhere to RAGAGEP but instead cut corners or did a sloppy job or substituted a cheaper material or fabrication technique.
In engineering, there is much parallel to science, in that there are experiments designed and conducted, data acquired and analyzed, theories formulated and tested against the data, and better experiments or larger systems built and tested. It angers me to observe how pathetic the science has been with respect to climate change. I cheer inwardly when I read comments on various blogs where quality of measuring instruments is described as paramount. If the raw data is suspect, then one might as well stop right there – any further use of the data is useless, and likely dangerous if one is an engineer. It can also lead to massive economic losses to the defendant in a lawsuit brought by an injured plaintiff, who is represented by a knowledgeable and skillful attorney.
It is encouraging to me to see that, in the extended peer community described by Dr. Ravetz, some are engineers. I don’t disparage non-engineers by this, as there are many good, skeptical, knowledgeable people without engineering degrees. And it is true that some engineers do a bad job, or more likely, are not permitted to do a good job because their bosses (usually non-engineers) prevent them. The Toyota car problems of the moment come to mind; it is very likely that the engineers at Toyota knew exactly what to do and how to do it to send out cars without the problems, but layers of management prevented them from doing so.
I would hold all scientists to the same standards to which engineers are held: get it right, or people die. My own background is in oil refineries, natural gas plants, petrochemical plants, basic chemical plants, and power plants. In those industries, one does not take chances, use bad data, use questionable measuring instruments, falsify data, manipulate data to obtain a pre-determined outcome, or any of the other myriad of things revealed in the post-Climategate mess. Things blow up and people die.
Therefore, I am a skeptic about climate science. At every turn, there is sloppy work, conclusions not supported by the data, very poor quality data, and agenda-driven work. My research and investigations show me that essentially none of the AGW claims are true, and will never be true. I am also very encouraged to see that many other engineers are speaking up and speaking out, using the internet.
As Dr. Revetz said, Post-Normal Science is here, and it is not going away.

Ian Vaughan
February 22, 2010 4:30 pm

Quote-
Thus we can understand much of background to the Credit Crunch (which may soon destroy us all) when we learn that Alan Greenspan was a devotee of Ayn Rand, and therefore believed, until it was too late, that the state is evil and the markets perfect.
Unquote.
While I don’t make any pretense to be part of the intelligencia, my understanding is that Greenspan’s divergence from Ayn’s viewpoint, and his making money to cheap, is what led to the crunch.

February 22, 2010 4:32 pm

Dr. Ravetz, read the writings of Richard Feynman on science and scientists and on anything else.

February 22, 2010 4:45 pm

Back in 2007 Mark Hume of East Anglia, to whom Prof. Ravetz alludes, reviewed Fred Singer’s book in the Guardian and said:

Self-evidently dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking, although science will gain some insights into the question if it recognises the socially contingent dimensions of a post-normal science. But to proffer such insights, scientists – and politicians – must trade (normal) truth for influence. If scientists want to remain listened to, to bear influence on policy, they must recognise the social limits of their truth seeking and reveal fully the values and beliefs they bring to their scientific activity. guardian

This is how post normal science has cashed out in practice.
I am afraid that the invention of “post normal science” is simply the creation of a liar’s charter for those who really, really believe, but cannot actually prove, AGW, or are against genetic engineering, or are convinced of the dangers of nano technology.

Its core is the mantram, ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’.

Here is the core of exactly why post normal science is a liar’s charter: each of these four conditions can only be met by investigation or by heroic assumption.
In climate science:
“facts uncertain” – yes, very uncertain. Indeed we don’t even know what effect on temperature a doubling of CO2 has – however, we can and should be clear about the fact that the uncertainties cut both ways and that the hysterical warmers tend to make more heroic assumptions than the wait and see skeptics.
“values in dispute” – there is a dispute – on the one side people who think disrupting and destroying huge swathes of the Western economic system, make massive transfers to less developed countries and effectively destroy world GDP on a hunch is just fine; on the other are people saying you need more than a hunch to make economic destruction a deliberate government policy
“stakes high” – this a pure, unsubstantiated, claim. A degree rise in temperature across 100 years is not exactly the end of the world and, in fact, might be beneficial. Only the hysterics have been running the “high stakes” argument (and they have not been running the other side of that argument, namely that radical reductions in CO2 emissions will kill substantial portions of the world’s economy and make the world poorer (and they are particularly not considering that if the world becomes poorer the poorest people in the world will become dead))
“decisions urgent” – not unless you accept a theory of cascading global warming where 1 degree per century suddenly becomes 6 through the hocus pocus of entirely unproven feedbacks
The invocation of “post normal science” requires some basis in fact. The conditions above must be proven to apply. This is not a matter of belief, it cannot be, as the effect of the invocation of post normal science is to allow scientists to abandon evidence based science in favour of “science” based advocacy.
Conditions would have to be very dire indeed for such a move to be legitimate. They aren’t and it isn’t.

February 22, 2010 4:48 pm

Allen (15:39:07) :
For those that have actually studied Kuhn’s work (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions), please clarify for my benefit what he meant by Normal Science and Revolutionary Science.
Most scientists work to a ‘paradigm’ [an agreed upon set of ‘facts’ and theories describing/explaining those]. They find one more butterfly to fit in the paradigm, they work out one more little consequence of this or that within the paradigm. They easily get their works published, because it is mainstream stuff. And it is also very important work as the paradigm gets a good work-over.
Then small anomalies crop up that do not find an easy explanation within the paradigm. In the beginning, this is so so serious, because they are few and could have any number of ad-hoc explanations [for example, faulty or incomplete data]. With time more and more anomalies accumulate and scientists begin to suspect that their paradigm has problems or a ‘crisis’. This is still not enough to overthrow the paradigm because scientists are VERY conservative in that sense that their knowledge is hard won and they requires extraordinary evidence for the anomalies.
At some point, somebody sees the light and proposes a new paradigm, which still preserves what was good from the old one, but in addition explains the anomalies as well. This is Revolutionary Science.Conversion to the new paradigm is usually swift. Once overwhelming evidence is there, scientists readily and quickly switch to the new paradigm and the cycle repeats.
This picture has many good and strong points, but is not the whole story. General Relativity did not result from a crisis of Newtonian Science. There were various small anomalies [e.g. Mercury’s motion], but they could have other explanations [e.g. a fast rotating solar core]. Some comets seemed to experience accelerations not directly accounted for, but they could be due to mass loss, and so on. GR sprang from Einstein’s thoughts and did not actually start a new paradigm right away, as it was generally ignored for half a century. It is only today that GR has revolutionized cosmology, and has become a new paradigm. What does fit in the Kuhnian scheme is that evidence for GR is now so overwhelming that a new paradigm simply asserts itself.

February 22, 2010 4:51 pm

this is NOT so serious, because they are few

EdB
February 22, 2010 4:59 pm

re: Brent Hargreaves (15:24:41) :
“Having read the first third of this magnificent document, I shouldn’t yet be commenting. But Mr. Ravetz has traced out in a few short paragraphs an intellectual journey which has taken many of us decades to make.”
I am a life long engineer and avid reader of science.. when I read such adulation as above I scatch my head and go “huh?”. I guess I am a simple guy and I respect honest work and integrity, and I very much aligned with the following post:
Dave McK (15:27:54) :
Let me make it quite clear and explicit:
Deformers of epistemology kill kids.
By inseminating a growing mind with your toxic mysticism, you cripple them forever. They become like you.
I don’t want you having any of my money.
I don’t want you anywhere near my kids.
I don’t want your poison in my world.

Anand
February 22, 2010 5:06 pm

All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.
-Friedrich Nietzsche
I do not understand the general hostility of some commenters towards Dr Ravetz. Is it an instinctual American reaction to Marxist ideology? A perspective that is always suspicious of big words?
Perhaps. But nevertheless, observe that there is a seed of honesty that is trying to get out. A confession. Francis Fukuyama anyone?
How many right-wingers and conservatives amongst us, with our warped self-righteousness that comes with success, would admit that the rise of unopposed mutation called free-marketism means the death of millions, exactly as much as Stalin and Mao unleashed?
I cringe every time a leftist government comes to power, be it in India or the US – for all the skewed taxation and robbery in broad daylight that drives citizens to within an inch of their lives. The rightist governments but are even more horrific – they virtually mean the murder of unsuspecting innocents. Guaranteed.
Leave us alone! 🙂

HB
February 22, 2010 5:12 pm

I very much enjoyed this article, and Steve Mosher’s response, among others. My bias – I’ve always been suspicious of “science”. So much depends on the hypothesis being used, how its being generalised and interpreted.
There are disctinct limits to what can be observed directly. And it takes a rare individual to be able to clearly observe without interpreting through prejudgments, expectations and other unconscious filters.
Mr Ravetz’s sharing of his background allows us to understand the unconscious filters he has become aware of. This is important. To ‘break your programming’ is very difficult. Mr Ravetz has done this to a large extent. I have also, since becoming more aware of my own filters. I was also a climate change alarmist (and quite scared!) until mid last year, when an informed, respectful comment was made about the science not being settled. I started searching for evidence and found this page, Dr Roy Spencer’s and climateaudit. I also found realclimate and learned that it was not so much focussed on evidence and respect.
Thank you Anthony (and mods) for providing a respectful, evidence based blog, to allow those of us from the other side, to learn how the science is not settled.

Editor
February 22, 2010 5:13 pm

Ian Vaughan (16:30:33) :
Quote-
Thus we can understand much of background to the Credit Crunch (which may soon destroy us all) when we learn that Alan Greenspan was a devotee of Ayn Rand, and therefore believed, until it was too late, that the state is evil and the markets perfect.
Unquote.
“While I don’t make any pretense to be part of the intelligencia, my understanding is that Greenspan’s divergence from Ayn’s viewpoint, and his making money to cheap, is what led to the crunch.”
Actually, Ayn Rand’s ideas were tossed out long ago when we stopped using the gold standard. Alan Greenspan once testified before congress, in response to questions from Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), about his policies and practices today versus his stated preference for a gold standard. Greenspan said that the monetary stability of the 80’s and 90’s was because he managed the Fed’s policies AS IF we still had a gold standard.
The fact is that the Fed’s policies had nothing to do with the meltdown, the blame for the current mess has to do with the SEC allowing credit default swap securities to be sold without sufficient risk coverage (AIG, the architect of the swap security, used as a database for their risk estimates, mortgage default records going back only to 1996, i.e. not covering the S&L crisis period of defaults). It wasn’t the Fed that was responsible for this stuff. Of secondary blame was that the Fed was overruled by DEMOCRATS in congress who passed the Community Reinvestment Act that ordered banks to lend to people based on race and not on things like ability to repay, credit score, etc. This resulted in billions in bad loans which toxified mortgage securities behind the credit default swaps.
To echo another commenter, yes, I’d like to try a free market for a change too. Greenspan wasn’t to blame, however, for the current mess, though he was surprised at how bad it was, primarily because AIG’s mortgage securities were so complex that most people didn’t really understand them.

John in CA
February 22, 2010 5:14 pm

[snip – this device video is not relevant to this discussion, sorry]

John in CA
February 22, 2010 5:19 pm

; ) prove us different

John in CA
February 22, 2010 5:21 pm

np – please send the links along to Mr. Watts – he likes science

Stu
February 22, 2010 5:28 pm

” Kate (14:15:20) :
The thing I learned was that the most ardent proponents of AGW honestly believe it is Unthinkable that the science might have errors. This will be a grief process for some.”
In my own mind when it comes to AGW, and in other things, Truth is kind of synonymous with honesty here, about being upfront about what you know and what you don’t. Honesty also ties in with curiosity, and it’s these two things which I find lacking in the statements made by many AGWers (as you say, it’s the more ardent ones which are primarily guilty here).
This was demonstrated for me via Anthony’s enquiry into the quality of the surface stations, which is really a very interesting project, but the AGW side (from what I’ve seen) has up until very recently ignored the kinds of questions that such a study raises. I’m actually glad that some are actually now beginning to take a look at it, if only in an effort to try to dismiss Anthony’s work. We cannot know whether something is important or not unless we ask the right questions and gather the data, which Anthony has done. What has been shown is good scientific curiosity and an honesty in appreciating potential limitations in temp measurement. Attacking him for simply asking questions says quite a bit about the honesty and curiosity of anyone doing the attacking.
I enjoyed the post btw Dr. Ravetz. Like you, I tend to have a more left-wing take on things, although I try to not let that interfere with my views on GW, atleast, not these days. I think we’ll arrive at better energy efficiency and a cleaner and greener planet with or without GW as a primary concern, atleast if that is what we would like to do, which I believe for a majority of people it is.

Mariss Freimanis
February 22, 2010 5:43 pm

steven mosher (15:25:52) wrote:
“One point that everyone misses here I think is that post normal science by definition involves human values. life, liberty, things like that.
Its not the science of super conductivity. It’s not the science of electrons moving through wires. the centrality of VALUES to the object of investigation is key”
Then why call it science? There are other perfectly serviceable names for it.

John in CA
February 22, 2010 5:46 pm

the academic paradigm is the issue – what measure of progress could we have all enjoyed if business had been set in its “rightful” seat. Science has never created the problems and will reclaim the prize as the “academics” fall…

February 22, 2010 5:49 pm

I am confused by: “For me, ‘nuclear deterrence’ was not only immoral, but also crazy, as it involved calculating with the incalculable – the Theory of Games with ten-megadeath payoffs. I was pleased to learn later that after the Cuba crisis the military came to the same conclusion, and created a new doctrine Mutually Assured Destruction.”
What is, as you see it, the critical difference between the pre- and post- Cuba philosophies that lends a different moral valuation to the two? Anyone?

Warren in Minnesota
February 22, 2010 6:06 pm

I agree with Keith Winterkorn (14:12:47) with his discussion that Einstein did not refute Newton. Dr. Ravetz reads as an erudite individual and well read. However, this article reads like books on the philosophy of science which I tried reading when I was in college 50 years ago. I studied physics and horticulture in college and find the philosophy of science about as scientific as the science in political science. Science is more like the excerpt from Crichton’s lecture as given by Oliver K. Manuel (14:18:45).

Philemon
February 22, 2010 6:17 pm

Allen (15:39:07) :
Kuhn drew a distinction between “normal” science and “revolutionary” science. Normal science was like high school chemistry lab, although he described it in terms of research programs; if the experiment didn’t turn out right, you must have done something wrong, because it couldn’t be the theory (well maybe the reagents or the titration equipment, but not the theory). Revolutionary science was whole new big theories that the young turks proposed but the old dinosaurs wouldn’t accept.
Well, “normal” science, in Kuhnian terms, is not Popperian science, nor is it considered normal by scientists. Kuhn did retreat from his characterization of what he termed “normal” science in his later work to some extent; mostly because scientists don’t work the way he claimed they did; aside from high school chemistry lab, it’s not, as Kuhn would have had it, “by the book puzzle solving.”
Umbongo (11:41:04) :
Actually, the only thing Popper would think “iffy” about clinical trials of medical treatments would be the use of Bayesian statistical methods, since he never accepted Bayesianism, primarily due to some misunderstanding about what “subjective probability” entailed as far as can tell. And as for the development of new treatments, and the understanding of how they work, it is generally closer to Popperian methodology than the naive Kuhnian description of “normal” scientific procedure. Experimental design, in particular, is regarded by many researchers in a rather Popperian light, and Popper is rather more popular among practicing scientists than he is among philosophers.
None of which is to claim that fraud, and scientific misconduct never occur in medicine or the pharmaceutical industry, nor that funding is never directed according to political whim and financial interests. However, it is silly to think of it as anything but fraud, scientific misconduct political whim, or financial interests when it is discovered. Fortunately, no one is under the impression that medical researchers are too pure for such doings.
That Ravetz would think environmentalists would be “better” than medical researchers in that regard suggests to me a lack of understanding of power-politics.
Also, the bit about Alan Greenspan and markets was, I believe a paraphrase of the late great fed chairman himself. who claimed in Congressional testimony that he had failed to recognize a “flaw” in the housing markets by way of excusing his role in creating the market conditions (bubble) that led to bailing out a a bunch of investment bankers at tax payers’ expense.
Greenspan wouldn’t have tried to throw the blame on Rand though, since he repudiated his youthful objectivist leanings in his Senate confirmation hearings when he was appointed Fed Chairman.
Which just goes to show, a feller can be the chairman of the greatest regulatory agency in the country, or he can be anti-regulation, but he can’t be both.

Johna Till Johnson
February 22, 2010 6:17 pm

Interesting essay, but with some major flaws. The biggest is that what Dr. Ravetz is calling “post-normal science” isn’t science at all–it’s the combination of science and the socio-political context in which science is conducted.
Calling socio-political context “science” is like Mark Twain’s comment about calling a dog’s tail a leg (“If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does he have? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”)
There is no such thing as having “high stakes” in science. Or low stakes. Or any stakes at all.
“Stakes” refers to the context that a society places around a particular scientific outcome:”if we don’t figure out such-and-such really soon, it will be very bad”.
Maybe it will, but “badness” is a moral, societal judgment which is orthogonal to actual science.
Science is the “figuring out” part.
“It will be really bad” is context, not science.
Dr. Ravetz conflates both concepts with the example of making high-stakes decisions in the face of great uncertainty.
Confusing science with context also leads to ambiguous concepts like the “Extended Peer Community”. Plenty of people want to weigh in on the significance of a scientific discovery. A far fewer set of people are actually engaged in that discovery. The blogosphere comprises both–and calling them both “Extended Peer Community” blurs the distinction rather than sharpening it.
Once you re-define science to encompass things that it doesn’t actually include (such as stakes) you’ve essentially re-defined tails as legs–with all the confusion that, uh, entails. (Sorry.)
I think a MUCH simpler way of stating the whole point is that science (and scientists) regularly get dragged into arguments that are actually about morals and value systems, not science. And confusing those arguments with science is a really bad idea.
BTW, since this is only my third post, I’m an engineer and have done graduate research in particle physics. I stopped reading philosophy after Hume, since as far as I”m concerned, he said everything that needed to be said ;-).
Regards,
J

cba
February 22, 2010 6:19 pm

It would seem that much of the problem is the expectation of expanding and relying on science for political decision making. Science is what it is and it is a long term search for the truth based upon the scientific method. The scientific method has shown over the long run that progress is made but there is no guarantee in the short run that there is validity. Another facet that distinguishes scientist from savant is that a scientist attempts to determine the error or inaccuracy involved in the results.
there are already methods and tools for management to evaluate circumstances and make decisions, including where imperfect knowledge exists. There is no need to try to distort science or to try to invent new science in order for such efforts to be incorporated into science when it is clearly something that does not belong there. To compound the problem, management thinking processes are taught to be quite different from scientific thinking. Paying attention to every detail and verifying every portion of each step is needed for science while management requires decisions and actions based upon the big picture with imperfect knowledge available.

February 22, 2010 6:25 pm

Dear Dr Ravetz,
I appreciate your answering critics. And your frank and brave confession of errors, and I accept that for what it is. You admit that you were duped, and you say that you found it implausible that green activism could be subject to the same corruption by vested interest, and that you have learnt from the climategate revelations.
I sympathise. I was in the same boat. But I am trying to take my lessons from Crichton and Lomborg without the old baggage. The problem is that your still carry your baggage. Your theory of PNS – and its teaching of how to behave in a post-normal situation – does not apply to the sceptical perspective on Climate Science. The main problem I see are these:
1. The acceptance that we should act from a position of extreme uncertainty bordering on plain ignorance – and then calling this science;
2. The legitmation of morally driven activist science. This applies well to AGW Climate Science but it does not fit the sceptical perspective. You cant simply claim the blogosphere scepticism to as your extended peer community idea because, it just doesnt fit.
I agree with “ScienceForTruth” that it is important for sceptics to recognise this. And so please permit me an extended response, picking up some of your specific points:

As many saw it, the inherited philosophy of science as Truth could no longer be sustained. Indeed, once Einstein had (in the general interpretation) shown that Newton was wrong about space, no scientific statement could be assumed to be free of error.

You give expression here to a shallow missunderstanding of the history of science that is usually corrected in undergrad university courses. Its that whole loss of innocents narrative – as if there ever were a time of innocent truth. On space theory, see Descartes dispute with Henry More’s doctine of absolute space – the theory that Newton would then adopt. (It is covered well by Koyre.) And then the famous Clarke-Leibniz letters. Here Leibniz objects to the very notion of simultenaity (of events/things) in space implied by Newton’s theory. More’s, and then Newton’s doctrine of space, succeeded, against a background of relativism, and on the coattails of his gravitational theory of planetary motion – but the doctrine that was the dogma of the Royal Society (while Newton was its president) was highly controversial, especially the continental.

I understood ‘normal science’ as a picture of what happens in science education, where almost all students learn by precept that for every problem there is just one and only one solution, expressed to several significant digits. I now realise that I have made a very big mistake in assuming that my readers on the blogs understand this about Kuhn;

You indeed made a mistake. You give expression here to a shallow missunderstanding of Kuln that is offensive (as I see from comments here) to many who practice normal scientists? Normal science is not school textbook science circa 1950. This is an extraordinary narrow definition of normal science that it doen’t involve uncertainty. As I read Kuln, the difference between normal and revolutionary science is that in a revolution (like the advent of quantum physics 120 years ago) the fundimental framework of science collapses into uncertainty – this has not occurred with climate science – not by any means!

The dam and the cemetry example

Let’s take your favourite example of the dam and its effect of flooding a cemetry. This looks tailor-made for the those who accept AGW, but it seems to me that sceptics are operating on a more basic level, namely: What is the chance that building the dam will cause the cemetry to flood?
If you say that our knowledge of the flooding fact is extremely uncertain and bordering on ignorance, and that, still, we should act – well that is no more acting on science than on some primitive fear or superstition. The comparison of your dam-flood with global warming scepticism could be with the rise of sea levels effect on cemetries and cities, where the skeptics are saying Hang on a minute! Show me the evidence that this is likely to occur? – that we are causing this in this way? etc
It is quite transparent that this theory is designed for the alarmist approach when you talk later about the policy problem of’how high to build the flood barriers.’ And then also with your apparent condoning of ad hom arguments – this is rather insensitive on this site dont you think?

[Roger Pielke Jr.’s] target is the ’stealth advocates’, who tell the world and perhaps themselves that they are merely stating scientific truths while they are actually arguing for a particular agenda.

This is precisely how sceptics are being targeted as per the ‘slimy’ article by Sach discussed here yesterday.

On Your idea that the Extended Peer Community is in fact the (blogging) sceptic critics

Well, I have read some of your articles and I see you and your followers using this Extended Peer Community to include stake holders, and, specifically, in the environmental movement, you include activists. And applauding this you seem to over-ride the desirability of scientific disinterest with licence for a moral agenda. (If this is not what you are saying then you need to explain it more clearly.) Whereas the sceptics operate against this approach, seeing it as inviting the corruption of science, as evidenced by the Hockey Team, and they call for a return to normal scientific standards and practices.

On your influence on the corruption of science by licencing activist science:

Your response to the Schneider quote is telling. I understand that you have no doubt recieved some abusive accusations from the extended peer community and this explains your paranoid tone. The question remains to what extent Schneider (as Houghton, as Hulme) has been a miss-represented? To what extent are they advocating value-ladened activist science in the absence of knowledge? And you? It is encumbent on you to address the applications of your theory, and most especially by Holmes. Is this a corruption of your ideas?
Or have you changed your mind?
I know I sure have.

Philemon
February 22, 2010 6:29 pm

mikelorrey (17:13:39) :
The CFTC was in principle responsible for derivatives, not really the SEC, which is responsible for registered and exchange traded securities, mutual funds and investment advisors… oh, and Sarbanes-Oxley. Other agencies which were responsible included the Comptroller of the Currency, and the FHA. It’s also important to distinguish what type of CDS we’re talking about. The AIG fiasco concerned CDS on CDO’s, not plain vanilla CDS on corporate debt. The reason Goldman Sachs was using AIG to underwrite their CDO output, wasn’t merely because AIG had a depressingly naive faith in the ratings agencies, it was also because the AIG financial products unit wasn’t regulated by state insurance commissioners.
All of this, however, is just details. The fundamental issue was the global expansion of debt, which was brought to you by the central banks (in particular the Fed) and the housing agencies.
So I don’t think we can absolve the Fed or its policies of responsibility. The Fed has done this before. It’s what it does.

Editor
February 22, 2010 6:45 pm

Philemon,
“Global Expansion of Debt” prior to 2006 was rather miniscule compared to the expansion of debt that has occurred since 2008 as the big government prescribed “cure”. The Fed does what it does domestically. It has no responsibility over expansion of debt in europe, asia, south america, etc. Nor is the Fed responsible for the debt rung up by CONGRESS which is financed by both the Fed and China.
Don’t blame the dealer for the addict’s weakness and lack of moral fortitude.

LearDog
February 22, 2010 6:52 pm

LorD. I’m exhausted. Gah.
It really isn’t all that complicated – and one certainly doesn’t need to coin new terms to excuse apparently commonplace behavior in ‘Climate ‘Science” that used to be rare.
These guys loved the power, fame and glory – and their egos were unchecked by either morals or scientific ethics. They were ROCK STARS !
But the part I continue to struggle with is the continued silence of the peers. They still view themselves as victims of some highly funded, coordinated and (nearly) faceless blog-world. If I were to find out that the single graph that created my Industry was a fraud – I’d be PISSED. Where is the outrage?
When my son finds himself in trouble – the first question I always ask is:
“Was it Murder? Or – Suicide?”

Bernie
February 22, 2010 7:06 pm

Far more interesting than Dr. Ravetz’s rather obscure and convoluted essays is the scope and incisiveness of many of the comments above. Some I agree with more than others, but in general my view has not changed from the first essay: PNS is an unnecessary explanatory concept.

February 22, 2010 7:09 pm

You took an enormous amount of space to say I know not what. If this is philosophy, I don’t get it. If your philosophy can’t be understood by “pre-post-normal” people, “da ain’t no good!”
The Warmers were ego maniacal psychopaths of the worst variety… like Hitler, Stalin, Marx, etc., etc., etc.
Ego’s that advance personal goals for personal advancement are worthy. Warmers ego’s that demand how the world must operate, are damned to the waste heap of the tried & failed “ism’s.” Personal freedom will always win out over personal domination, regardless of the method of the attempted domination.
Besides, who could believe mathematical models that predicted temperature & sea levels a hundred years from now. A hundred year prediction doesn’t take scientific or philosophical understanding to realize it’s false!!! QED.
[note: even %$*(&%$ type scatology isn’t allowed. Keep it nice. – The Night Watch]

Bernie
February 22, 2010 7:10 pm

I forgot. I strongly recommend the response that triggered Dr. Ravetz’s attempt to clarify his position: http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/

Admin
February 22, 2010 7:10 pm

There is the scientific method, and there is politics and bureaucracy.
There is relativism and there is deductive logic.
Did you say anything else Mr. Ravetz?
Lots of words spinning in circles.

Francisco
February 22, 2010 7:16 pm

This is a very complex topic, no wonder it generates so many passionate responses. The philosophy of science has long, long noticed and described the obvious fact that science does not operate, and has never operated, in a special lofty realm where the daily dirt of human interests have no effect. The co-opting of science by power is not new. And noticing and describing something does not automatically mean promoting it. Surely the current state of climate science is by far the most blatant example of the grotesque heights this process can reach, but I don’t think this is the fault of any philosophy of science.
And note that the notion of Sience as something uniquely pure and above all other endeavors has been increasingly promoted by the very same powers that sought , and achieved, increasing control over it. The catastrophic global warming meme gets away with murder precisely because of the increasing sanctification of Science to the point where people cannot believe “real scientists” could behave badly.
On the other hand, I agree with those who say that the notion of “quality” is much too vague and ultimately meaningless as a replacement for whatever goals were there before. And I agree that it is precisely the dismissal of uncertainty, not its acceptance, that has caused the current state of affairs in climate science. Because in order to build this elaborate tale, you need to stack assumption upon narrow assumption upon narrow assumption very high up, from the behavior of the carbon cycle, to the sinks capacity, to the earths reflectivity, to the feedbacks… and even to the way you measure temperatures…. about things that are very very poorly understood – and treat the unwieldy sum of those assumptions with a degree of certainty that is not warranted by any stretch of the imagination.
On the other hand, one can clearly think of some special topics where even if assumptions are ridiculously stretched, most of us would not mind. Think for example of the science behind the possibility and details of a “nuclear winter.” It is pretty well accepted that the science behind it was widely speculative and not very serious at all- but who in his right mind would want to make a row about it?
I am convinced that there are many people (not me) who think in similar terms of AGW. I find it impossible they cannot see how preposterously speculative the science is, and how strenuously it is being pushed. And yet they look the other way because they think there may be some benefits from it. Like Mike Hulme. And many others simply go along because it is a big udder one can easily get hooked on.
To sum, the scam is not new in kind. What is really new is the sheer magnitude of it.

Admin
February 22, 2010 7:18 pm

Oh and one more thing.
There is a time for a cost/benefit analysis as if the damn example was somehow profound.

mike sphar
February 22, 2010 7:36 pm

All of this pin head dancing seems to be missing a salient point, that the future of the world will and probably has already been decided in a place very much alien to the minds centered in western civilization. I am speaking of the decisions made by the pragmatic capitalistic leaning communists who sit in control of the society that some refer to as middle earth. What China and like it, India decides regarding future weather will dictate the future of energy use in the world, like it or not. What goes on elsewhere is merely a sideshow. If the West decides to punish itself with debilitating energy taxation will not affect the final results more than a token amount.

February 22, 2010 7:43 pm

Reds10
The Warmers were ego maniacal psychopaths of the worst variety… like Hitler, Stalin, Marx, etc., etc., etc. >>
The warmists may be many things including ill intentioned and misguided, but comparing them to Hitler and Stalin is no better than them calling sceptics “deniers”.

Mike Smith
February 22, 2010 7:44 pm

While this is slightly off topic, I think it is worth commenting that Ravetz seems to completely misunderstand the housing/credit crisis in the U.S. His attempt to blame it on Ayn Rand is completely misguided: Ms. Rand would never have approved of the government’s creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, not to mention its increasing intervention into the housing market.

Orson
February 22, 2010 7:45 pm

re “Ravetz”
Blah blah blah bla. Bla Blah BLas. BS blah blah.
I got the name, but after the first round, I tune out anything else as meritless Po-Mo gibberish. Politicized propaganda, signifying nothing.
HE doesn’t grasp science, nor logical debate. You are dismissed, “Ravetz”

Noelene
February 22, 2010 7:52 pm

“What will happen as a result of Climategate? As a philosopher, I find that to be the big question for me”
The question should be What has happened?The answer-nothing.
It’s been covered.Obama has opened his own department
I think he called it The Crystal Ball.
Too many leaders in power,not willing to ask questions.
As a member of the public,and seeing all that has gone on,it is not the scientists that take the majority of the blame,it is the politicians.They have shown me quite clearly what they are willing to do to the people they represent,and nowhere is it more evident than with Gordon Brown.
I pity the people of the UK,because they are trapped,the opposition pretends to believe as well.
We may become trapped in Australia too,depending on the what happens with the bill in the senate,and what happens if Rudd wins the next election.The people are powerless.The chickens will not come home home to roost,until there is real hardship.
Of course scientists are the ones that enabled politicians to achieve their aims,because people trusted scientists to know what they are talking about.
You lose people when you argue the science.It is all about the money with the public too.They don’t care about islands sinking,or cities flooding in the future,but when you tell them what the cost of an ETS is,they sit up and take notice.When you tell them that they will be paying 30 percent more for electricity in the hope that China and India will listen,they take notice.
Where are the films of the power stations being built in China and India?
Where are the films of the 1500 cars China is putting on the roads every month?
Where are the films on the headaches caused by mercury light bulbs(disposal and manufacture)?
Where are the films on how electric car batteries will become a disposal problem?
Where are the films on the inefficiency and needles bird deaths caused by windmills?
Where are the films on the food shortage,linked to Bio fuels?
Where are the films of the forests being cleared for Bio fuels.
Where are the films on England’s fuel poor?
I’m sure there’s a lot more,but I’m rambling,so I’ll stop.

February 22, 2010 7:53 pm

It’s less complicated. Do the data, methods, experiments, studies and models justify the AGW conclusions? The question stands, whether you’re doing pre-normal, normal, abnormal or post-normal science. No amount of wriggling gets one off the hook. And since the science is the engine for the enormous economic and political changes underway, the question is far more important than usual. What’s new? Nothing. Come on!

J.Peden
February 22, 2010 7:55 pm

Ravetz still doesn’t understand that the problem with Climate Science is that it is not doing real Science, a problem which can be easily remedied by enforcing the principles of the Scientific Method, particularly as to the publication of the “materlials and methods, including code, etc.” which actually are the “science” involved in the experiments and studies which lead to the conclusions and results of the “science”.
Or if he does understand what the problem is, then why doesn’t he simply discard his notion of Post Normal Science?
And why hasn’t Ravetz answered the specific criticisims and questions presented in the comments, especially Willis Eschenbach’s, instead of presenting yet another rambling discourse about PNS? There’s something about a focused interaction which Ravetz doesn’t like.

LearDog
February 22, 2010 7:59 pm

This really isn’t a complex thing at all. Dr Ravetz – you’re over-selling to an informed populace.
The Venn diagram is: Moral Relativism meets Science. The intersection – Post Normal Science.
That’s why the scientific method matters – IT serves to guide, NOT one’s views about what is good or bad for ‘society’. Who’s society btw?

Al Gore's Holy Hologram
February 22, 2010 8:02 pm

I must correct Ravetz.
Environmentalists (including al-Qaeda and the Taleban – yes those guys succeeded in creating a very low carbon economy in Afghanistan for a number of years and the most wanted beardy in the world has backed Kyoto and Copenhagen) frequently conduct attacks and industrial sabotage.

Pat Moffitt
February 22, 2010 8:02 pm

Look at science as operating within a self organizing adaptive “environmental movement system” that includes NGOs, academic, regulatory interests etc. The system operates in accordance with the rules described by Regulatory, Public Choice, Information Theories etc.
The system is sensitive to its initial condition -the first earth day and the birth of EPA (regulatory theory states a new agency’s culture is infused at its creation. The system selects according to its culture. A culture that can be defined by Denis Hayes one of Earth Day’s chief organizers who wrote in a special edition of the Progressive
“April 22 (Earth Day) is a tool — something that can be used to focus the attention of society on where we are heading. It’s a chance to start getting a handle on it all; a rejection of the silly idea that bigger is better, and faster is better, world without limits, amen. This has never been true. It presumes a mastery by Man over nature, and over Nature’s laws. Instead of seeking harmony, man has sought to subdue the whole world. The consequences of this are beginning to come home. And time is running out.”
EPA was built on the beliefs of Barry Commoner (as well as others) that claimed environmental problems are the result of excess economic production. Cheap energy is the cause for excess economic production. It further postulated that resources were finite and that we are rapidly approaching that limit. Technology was the problem and could not provide an answer to the theory of finite resources. As such the environment must be protected from this excess production and the only way to do this was to control the root cause- economic expansion reliant on cheap energy. (An explanation why the history of EPA action has focused on energy production–mercury controls, acid rain drilling bans and now climate)
To make matters more complicated the environmental movement is value driven (lets leave aside what the merit of the value). Science cannot adjudicate a conflict of values. Values, as opposed to interests are not open to compromise. A battle over values cannot lead to accommodation- only confrontation.
Beliefs/Culture operate as a selection algorithm in the decision making process. They are not necessarily conscious nor do they need to be to have powerful influence over the outputs of a self-organizing system. And it should be remembered that very small selection bias iterated over 40 years as is the case of EPA can produce a powerful controlling influence. The selection bias operates on many levels including hiring at regulatory agencies for those with similar beliefs. (And if they don’t have them initially they will adapt to them in time)
Science was also seen as a threat to this value driven movement–as science is to an any value/dogmatic position. Gottlieb in Forcing the Spring talks of Rachel Carson’s “ insistence that expertise had to be democratically grounded-that pesticide impacts were a public issue, not a technical issue decided in expert arenas often subject to industry influence-anticipated later debates about the absence of the public’s role in determining risk in making choice in about hazardous technologies.” The environmental movement seeks a political solution – it was designed this way. And no lawyer puts any scientist of a witness stand that they don’t already know what they are going to say. Environmental science has been so constrained from the beginning.
Now run the system for 40 years- small selection bias over and over. Selection in academic advancement, selection in what science was selected to be used and what science was funded. Add in the positive and negative feed back loops. The fact that all regulatory agencies seek to grow. Systems organize towards the efficient use of available power. And EPA may have more real power than any other government agency. Everything either adapts to the system or goes extinct. (Many scientist like Ed Krug during the acid rain crisis that did not adapt went extinct- part of the negative feed back controls) Rent seekers sign on, Academic sign, lawyer find ways to game the system, the funding and power of the NGOs grow etc -the system becomes more organized and resistant to change.
The system through trial and error continually selects and a solution “emerges” The solution not only involves the strategy used by the participants but also the controlling ideology continues to seek a consistent or unifying “solution”. The current ideological solution is Environmental Justice -a belief that says the poor are preferentially exposed to the harms of pollution and are as a result owed compensation. (It fused the civil right and environmental movement) Climate change is how the damages are calculated and green economics is how the award is to be distributed.
It is interesting to note the concept of environmental justice was crafted by Rev Ben Chavis out of Chicago’s United Church of Christ under the direction of Rev Wright. Al Gore submitted the initial Environmental Justice (EJ) legislation and Carole Browner then EPA chief made it a guiding principle for the Agency
The system simply continues to select according to its “bias”. It is why Holdren is our science advisor (the original finite resosurces guru and de-deveopment of the west proponent.) Browner is our energy czar, Lubchenco at NOAA whose career is associated with the UN’s IUCN EJ movement etc etc. And Lisa Jackson has elevated EJ to the dominant factor in EPA decision making.
Most importantly it is not conspiracy but the simple selection bias iterated for forty year producing a complex adaptive self organizing system. Whether you like what the system has produced brings us back to your value system.

Joe
February 22, 2010 8:15 pm

Thank you Jerome Ravetz!
I have been trying to go through this old boys school system and I might as well bang my head against the wall for all that thay actually hear or want to know.
This is why science has fallen off the boat and need a system overhaul to look at new science. It is too tainted right now with saving your butt mentalities that it is far easier to do nothing then actually look, listen and watch and LEARN.

Leonard Weinstein
February 22, 2010 8:45 pm

I agree with many of the comments made and could not say anything better, so I will stick to the science. Mike Lorry, Vincent, Steve Mosher, the speed of light in vacuum is 300k kps not kph.

Orson
February 22, 2010 8:53 pm

Kuhn versus Popper? What are their implications for climate science and the “climategate” scandal?
Allen above [Allen (15:39:07)] asks to know more about the terms and predicates thrown out here and elsewhere in this prolix ‘answer’ to critics:
“For those that have actually studied Kuhn’s work (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions), please clarify for my benefit what he meant by Normal Science and Revolutionary Science. It seems that there is some confusion among these posts, and in order for anyone to start understanding Ravetz we must know the arguments of Kuhn, Popper, et al.”
Australian philosopher of science Rafe Champion (SEE http://www.the-rathouse.com/writingsonpopper.html) gives reliable introductory accounts of Popper and his relationship to other philosophers of science, including Kuhn:
“Moving on to Thomas S. Kuhn and his ideas about normal science and paradigms. These were spelled out in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Kuhn rejected the view that science grows in a steady fashion as observations accumulate. He suggested instead that periodic revolutions occur, with whole world-views changing in the process. These world-views he called paradigms. In the period between revolutions we have what Kuhn called ‘normal science’. ‘Normal scientists’ who work on relatively minor ‘puzzles’ conduct this. In contrast with a Popperian scientist who accepts no limits to criticism, normal scientists never try to explore or criticise the wider framework of ideas (the paradigm) in which the puzzles are located.
“The secret of the success of Kuhn’s ideas lies in their symbiotic relationship with inductivism. A symbiotic relationship is a partnership between two species where both derive benefit. The inductivist approach produces ‘normal scientists’ who uncritically accept the ‘paradigms’ that they inherit. Kuhn made his reputation by describing this situation and this is his debt to inductivism. In return his theory legitimates whatever scientists are doing, and so he repays his debt by providing support for inductivism. At the surface level his ideas can be seen as a challenge to some ideas about induction which Popper demolished in 1934. At the deeper level Kuhn’s ideas are thoroughly conservative and unhelpful for working scientists.”
(SOURCE http://www.the-rathouse.com/poptheoryknow.html)
Steven Fuller, as sociologist influenced by Popper, goes further in his biographical works on Kuhn. Fuller demonstrates that Kuhn’s ideas rationalized the co-optation of the university-scientific complex by US state interests during the Cold War. Thus, his ideas – more false than valid – became a reactionary justification for centralized thottling of scientific research programs through government funding.
Ravetz continues this reactionary Baconian mode, where all scientific ‘progress’ depends upon state funding, state support, and government control. These naive ‘progressive’ Marxist notions are demolished by the work of Terence Kealey on the public policy history
of philosophy of science. Science rarely depends on state sponsorship, and i economic history proves it is typically hobbled by it. (SEE “Sex, Science, and Profits,” for a breezy overview, not released in the US but available in paper from Amazon.com. REVIEWS HERE http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/news/newsarchive2008/kealey-book.html)
Kealey is a former clinical biochemist at Oxford, and his clear, concise Popperian take on “climategate” is a sufficient rejoinder to Ravetz ridiculous confusions.
Therefore let me present Kealey’s early December online post here in full because the former simplifies the implications of these controversies through the long perspective of science history in a useful way the latter cannot :
As everyone knows, Professor Phil Jones, the director of the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia, has sent some unwise emails. In one he boasted of using statistical “tricks” to hide declines in global temperatures, in another he advocated the deletion of certain data, and in yet another he proposed a boycott of journals that published inconvenient papers. Consequently Professor Jones has had to step aside from his directorship while his conduct is investigated.
But much of the criticism directed against Jones is naïve. What do people suppose scientists are? Disinterested followers after truth?
The great myth about scientists is the one propagated by uncritical readers of Karl Popper’s 1934 book The Logic of Scientific Discovery. There Popper argued that scientific statements are only provisional and that science progresses by their falsification. Hence the statement “all swans are white” was once true for Europeans but it was nonetheless falsified when Captain Cook reached Australia, whose swans are of course black. Thus does knowledge advance.
But that does not necessarily mean that individual scientists appreciate their theories being disproved. Indeed, one characteristic of many great scientists is that – unlike ordinary researchers – they are brave enough to disregard inconvenient facts. Consider the age of the earth.
During the 19th century Sir Charles Lyell had, by his study of the rate of erosion of cliffs and the creation of sedimentary rocks, proposed the earth to be hundreds of millions of years old. Yet, as we know from volcanoes, the core of the earth is red hot. And when contemporary geologists calculated the rate of heat loss, they concluded that the earth could be only a few millions of years old. Had it been any older, its core would have cooled. Lyell had been falsified.
But Lyell’s followers simply ignored the falsification, and to widespread derision they continued to assume that the sedimentary rocks, and the fossils they contained, were hundreds of millions of years old. Then one day somebody somewhere discovered radioactivity, somebody else discovered the core of the earth to be radioactive, and somebody else discovered that radioactive reactions emit heat, and hey presto the discrepancy was resolved. The core of the earth generates heat, which is why it is still hot, and the earth is indeed very old.
Lyell had demonstrated that great scientists are not necessarily falsifiers. But they are verifiers. They conceive of theories and they seek to verify them – and it is for others to falsify them. Obviously scientists should never fabricate data but many researchers will ignore inconvenient results. Indeed, if individual scientists were not passionate verifiers, they would not be driven to do the difficult experiments that push the boundaries of knowledge. Individual scientists, in short, are advocates, not judges, and their reluctance to self-falsify was recognised as early as 1667 by Thomas Spratt in his History of the Royal Society:- “For whosoever has fix’d on his Cause, before he has experimented; can hardly avoid fitting his Experiment, and his Observations, to his own Cause, which he had before imagin’d; rather than the cause of the truth of the Experiment it self.”
But if falsification can be the death of great science, it can also be the death of bad science, and must thus be embraced. Which brings us back to Professor Phil Jones. His behaviour may have been only typical of verifying scientists but it becomes dangerous when it is harnessed in defence of a powerful status quo.
Carbon-driven global warming is now a dominant narrative yet, as Professor Jones’s emails reveal, the evidence in its favour is not impregnable. Thus one of the emails on his system worried that “we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment, and it is a travesty that we can’t” while another admitted that “we can have a proper result – but only by including a load of garbage.” One of Jones’s email correspondents, moreover, was Professor Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University who, famously (or infamously), re-drew the conventional ‘wobbly’ graphs for recent global temperatures to represent them as showing a ‘hockey stick’ effect of sudden contemporary warming. This redrawing has been widely criticised.
But if the scientific evidence is imperfect, our response should not be to slate Professor Jones, who is obviously an honest man who has been enslaved by a hypothesis that is failing to make the expected predictions, but rather to encourage sceptics in their counter-advocacy. Only thus will truth eventually out.
Scientists are advocates, and they will not necessarily broadcast contradictory findings, so it is for the rest of us to adjudicate between competing results, not to swoon when advocates advocate.
Dr Terence Kealey is a biochemist, Vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University, and adviser to the Global Warming Policy Foundation. His books include Sex, Science and Profits (2008)
http://indyeagleeye.livejournal.com/65629.html

Peter of Sydney
February 22, 2010 9:10 pm

In other words words count more than truth. That;’s typical of a corrupt mind.

JimInIndy
February 22, 2010 9:11 pm

I read through your long post, think I understood most of it, and re-read a few paragraphs. My impression, Doctor, is that you think you are dealing with the world you observe rationally, but you are limited by the upbringing you think you have outgrown.
One of my professors, a well-regarded Philosophy and Theology author and lecturer, repeatedly cautioned us to “Be very careful what you believe, for it will limit what you can learn.”
Your decision not to read ‘Fear’ was based on your beliefs, which you did not want contradicted (consciously, or not.)
Similarly, Jones, Mann, Briffa, et al, had a mutually reinforced belief in the threat of CO2/AGW. Contradictory facts were just issues to be minimized and explained away.

Stephen Garland
February 22, 2010 9:22 pm

steven mosher (15:25:52) : I presume those chance estimates in your first example have absolute certainity (no error bars!). Therefore do something!
The second example has large error bars and the 50% cure rate is therefore meaningless and is most likely a scam. Do nothing!

Stephan
February 22, 2010 9:29 pm

Time for ice posting LOL
http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/observation_images/ssmi_ice_ext.png
Its well within normal limits now and at this stage/rate looks like it may go well over!
REPLY: working on one already -A

Orson
February 22, 2010 9:40 pm

THE INSTITUTIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF KEALEY, via Fuller and Popper, for climate science?
Scientific institutions, after the fall of communism and the end of the Cold War, have been co-opted to “solve” the state supported “problem” of global warming without vetting or parsing out conflicting interests of bureaucrats, environmental activists, and self-dealing scientists.
This explains why the circumspection, and indeed scandal of “climategate” has received the least media interest in the US – where 95% of all such funding originates (from the US federal government). The Society of Environmental ‘Journalists’ protect;s All Gore from hostile questioning (last fall), for instance, and fully endorses not science but conventional ‘authority’ in climate science – not vigorous criticism the Popperian perspective necessitates.
It could have come straight from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” satire on “The State Science Institute” and how ‘scientific’ irrationalists protect themselves from the market of ideas testing through politics of special interests and pull. This emerges from Richard Linzdzen’s Erice Seminars paper in August 2008, and Lawrence Solomon’s talk about his book “The Deniers” in Washington, DC, in the spring of 2008. (The latter may be viewed at booktv from the C-SPAN.org web site.)
Finally, see Lindzen’s hour-long lecture in Washington, DC – available online – given to a Cooler Heads Coalition meeting in 4 November, 2009. (LINK via Motl http://motls.blogspot.com/2009/11/cooler-heads-richard-lindzen-on-cap-and.html)
HERE are few points made by Lindzen in his talk as summarized by Lubos Motl:
“In the first part [of his talk], Lindzen starts to talk about the propagandistic character of the climate change meme, contacts between climate institutes and politicians, and the explicitly stated desires of climatologists to abuse the topic. [ie, Popperian science has been subverted.]
“In the second part, he gets to the methods to shape (and replace) the public that is indifferent to the global warming picture. Lindzen picks (the BBC and) MIT president Susan Hockfield with her ‘accelerating global warming’ as an example of the [inaccurately] brainwashed laymen who are presented as the intellectual elites whose sensibilities the GOP politicians are not allowed to ‘insult’. {ie, any populist Kuhnian lie to justify the political ends!]
– – –
Returning to Hockfield, she answered [Lindzen] by the usual arrogant ‘best consensus’ statements about the IPCC, even though the IPCC said nothing about any ‘acceleration’. Richard’s main point is that appeals to (would-be) authorities have replaced scientific arguments among all these people. [ie, don’t bother me with factual accuracy or valid scientific uncertainties!]
Similar details are revealed about the attack on the scientific integrity and intimidation by people like Holdren, Obama, Gore, and others. A highly contrived quote by Richard’s colleague, Carl Wunsch, reveals that Wunsch is truly frustrated that the sea level changes can’t be measured accurately to support global warming (and Obama). 🙂 [Plus ca change-so science is corrupt; who cares?]
– – –
“The final [Q & A] question suggests that the (proper) climate science is in a similar relationship with respect to the establishment as Galileo, and asks what to do. Richard [Lindzen] says that people who are interested in the policy should learn science. And he explains why he is a denier and not a skeptic – because ‘skeptic’ suggests that there is an a priori good case in favor of the theory which isn’t there in the case of AGW.”
Climate science has been corrupted science, Lindzen argues in this talk. The Enlightened Popperian cannon of scientific conduct has been subverted by the irrationalists, whom Ravetz cannot extricate himself from (again, see Rand), through the dogmas of politics and the mindless pieties of PC. And it is politics that must be cut out like a cancer in climate science, if virtues like scientific truth are to survive.

p.g.sharrow "PG"
February 22, 2010 9:45 pm

PNS; post – normal science is not science! It is a philosophy that wants to be considered as a real science. It is really BS (bad science) that wants to be taken as if it were real.
I work at the leading edge in applied science and engineering where only truth works, anything less can result in disaster. SCIENCE should present the facts, the whole facts and nothing but the facts. Leave the manipulation, half truths and lies to politicions and lawyers. The general population expects politicans and lawyers to manipulate and lie. They expect the truth from scientists and they can then make up their own minds as to judgments in application.
PNS is an elitist excuse that only WE know what is best for you and you are too dumb to understand.

Capn Jack
February 22, 2010 9:46 pm

If I give a person money on a tricked up prospectus, that is called fraud.
It is not deconstructed relativism nor is a debate that trade in general will suffer because of the lack of trust between traders an excuse for illegal actions, let’s forget immoral behavior for a second.
The arguments from the crew at the guardian drip philosophical adjustment for what are in the very basic form, illegal or incompetent actions by a few hundred high profile scientists.
Just because it’s science does not forgive criminality, venality or falsehoods. Black mail is just as wrong in science as it is in trade.
The science method is not post normal gibberish.
I freely admit I get completely lost in this life journey personal history lesson.
They took apples added them to oranges and called them Bananas.
If that wasn’t working, they stole half the apples and replaced them with mangoes.
Science and math stats are complicated enough without this philosophical rubbish.
They measured UHI, the principle test function of Athony’s incredible Measuring station Blog site and called it global warming.
5000 words of prose is not going to change the facts and science itself is more in danger from apologising philosophers who publish in tax exempt newspapers masquerading as journals than rigorous scientists such as Anthony Watts, Steve Mac and a thousand others, working part time on their own dollar or a few lousy subscriptions.
Science as an Endreavor in most human endeavor comes down to quality and rigor and self test.
There is no truce. This debate was decided in the arena that matters.
I am not interested in personal reasons for bad behavior. It was money or power or both, it definitely was not advancing science.
If the boss tells you to lie or cheat, it is your own decision to be an accomplice or not.

Khwarizmi
February 22, 2010 10:01 pm

My universal grammar engine combusted an entire mol of glucose in parsing just the first paragraph of this prolix. With the word “glossolalia” flashing brightly for some reason in my simple mind, like an alarm would do, I veered abruptly toward the post-normal commentary for some plain English relief. Whew!
Therein I rediscovered that the unadulterated version of science is really just the pursuit of explanatory fitness.
The description of science by keith winterkorn (14:12:47), in particular, was very elegant and precise. Thanks!

Jörg Schulze
February 22, 2010 10:04 pm

See, there is a criteria for good science, it works! Does the GPS function? Yes it does, and as it uses the distortion of time through velocity as part of the calculation, it is extremely likely that Einsteins Theorie of Relativity is, at least to a very big part, truth. Does the weather forecast work? No it doesn’t and so it is ludicrous to predict the climate 100 years ahead, especially when you can’t recreate the past climate(s) by putting your model in reverse. So we have not lost all the anchors in science, even though all (most?) knowledge is limited for the time being, there is a possibility to check if a theory is just an educated guess or a real tool to save real problems.

PaulsNZ
February 22, 2010 10:09 pm

These treatise adds up to nothing BUT Truth is true and can be proven to be true!. Lies can be proven to be lies, If you tell a lie, Nothing you say can be trusted as the truth!, no matter how much you fool yourself with reason!. I don’t trust any Global Warming scientist because they reason its their mission to prove a lie!.

steven mosher
February 22, 2010 10:12 pm

Mariss Freimanis (17:43:31) :
steven mosher (15:25:52) wrote:
““One point that everyone misses here I think is that post normal science by definition involves human values. life, liberty, things like that.
Its not the science of super conductivity. It’s not the science of electrons moving through wires. the centrality of VALUES to the object of investigation is key”
Then why call it science? There are other perfectly serviceable names for it.”
Very good point Mariss. Since this is a philosophy question of sorts I think such a question is very appropriate. Perhaps it would be beneficial to come up with a different term. How would we test that? My point was this.
With some subject matters, say superconductivity, there is no immediate
connection with a human value, lets say our obligation to future generations. So, “uncertainty” in the science of superconductivity, doesn’t play into the debate about our obligations to future generations. Now, lets turn to a field like climate science. Here a statement like ” Increased C02 will damage future generations” immediatly puts one in the middle of an ethical question. What is our obligation? People who disagree about that value will regard the uncertainty in the science differently. People who believe we have strong intergenerational obligations will not regard scientific uncertainity the same as people who believe we have weak intergenerational obligations. The difference in values conditions our regard for the scientific uncertainties. Very simply, when there is a conflict in values, people tend to become either situational “believers” or situational “skeptics”
The other thing to note ( stealing from an essay I have yet to write) where the science touches on human value conflicts directly, there is an increased probability of hoax. I don’t think this point has been raised before so I have some more research to do. I don’t know if Ravetz has noted this, but where uncertainty of facts is high and values are in conflict, the incidence of hoax is increased and hoaxes that occur tend to be long lived. that’s a hypothesis.

steven mosher
February 22, 2010 10:27 pm

Stephen Garland (21:22:46) :
You missed the point.

February 22, 2010 10:30 pm

Yup. PoMo narcissistic self-referential tripe, as was so well said in many of the above comments. Parting shots: (12:30:16) the stool of truth does not stand on emotion, you crybaby; (15:56:09) science is not the currency of society, currency is; (17:12:34) please don’t share your background with me.
To all: when engaged in carpentry, always endeavor to hit the nail on the head. Misses, even near misses, can result in painful and unwelcome reality checks.

Pat Moffitt
February 22, 2010 10:40 pm

BC Bill
The failures of science were mentioned in fisheries collapse. Science has been pretty clear about the cause of collapse (in at least a decades worth of reports out of NRC)- government subsidies financed too many boats chasing too few fish with too little enforcement.
Here from NRC’s 1999 report to Congress “Sustaining our Marine Fisheries”
• “The fishery literature is replete with examples of misuse or even lack of use of scientific information.”
and
• “Another problem is that many managers are trying to balance diverse, even conflicting, but unarticulated goals. Another aspect of this problem is that a variety of political agendas and potential conflicts of interest complicate fishery management decisions.”
I wonder whether the scientist that accused political agendas of having a conflict of interest- has recieved any more grants. Government science picks the science it wants by framing the question that is awarded funding. It also ignores what it doesn’t want– it is not limited to climate. Not a single recommendation from 5 reports to Congress made it into the reauthoriztion of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management Act– Although they did slip in some money for polar bear research to save them from global warming

Norm/Calgary
February 22, 2010 10:48 pm

Inconceivable

Steve Schaper
February 22, 2010 11:26 pm

We really need to go back to Kuhn, I think, if we assume he is not talking about whether or not there is truth and if it is knowable, but that he is talking about scientists. People.
That a != non-a, that repeated obervation with the same results tells us something. yet the scientists are human beings with all of the emotional, financial and political pressures affecting their choices, consciously and sub-consciously.
If we give up the idea of an external objective realty – the concept being a product of the Judaeo-Christian worldview and kept as an existentialist leap of faith by the positivists – then the show is over. Science is no longer possible.
As with that maxim that is by no means original to the Quakers but probably goes back to the ancient Jews, true enough, but that doesn’t mean that there is no reality, only that we are finite, and our understanding is inevitably fuzzy – with truth, but not exhaustive truth.

February 23, 2010 12:37 am

To The Night Watch… you may be right, my apology. Thanks for allowing the rant. I can’t help but think that I must have been near the mark for you to have let it through. But, thanks again. “%$*(&%$ type scatology,” whatever… but, hilarious!
To davidmhoffer… Was it Winston Churchill or George Bernard Shaw who said & I paraphrase; “Now that we know who you are, lets talk money?” Do you know that quote?
A dictator is a dictator… it just depends on how many people have you killed today or made life just a little more complicated then it need be.
Would be saviors or would be dictators believe anything for the sake of what’s right… in their minds.
They also included people like Rachel Carson who have killed tens of millions of people because they thought DDT thinned egg shells, or “China Syndrome’s” executive producers, directors, writers & actors because they thought one accident was reason enough to ban an industry that would have brought easy living to hundred’s of millions & reduced carbon footprints, etc, etc.
It’s not the size of the score differential that counts, it’s just who wins! I’m proud to be called a “skeptic” or a “denier.” I think this site & it’s originator helped save a lot of misery. Check Bjorn Lomborg, but let’s not argue… a spade’s a @#$%^&* shovel too… LOL

Nicholas Hallam
February 23, 2010 12:45 am

Popperian fallibilism a normative philosophy in which truth (for Popper in an objective sense) is the guiding notion. This is very different from Kuhn’s descriptive view of scientific progress, both in its “Normal Science” and in its “Revolutionary” phases. “Normal Science” for Kuhn is just puzzle solving within a paradigm in which the rules of the game are never challenged and anomalies ignored: this of course is quite unPopperian. But so are Kuhn’s Revolutionary episodes, the overthrow of one scientific tradition by another cannot (for Kuhn) amount to progress towards truth since the previous and subsequent “paradigms” are “incommensurable” – they do not have logical contact one with another, and, even where terms used are common to both, they have different meanings. Popper was deeply inimical to this relativism, which I think can be traced to the influence of the later Wittgenstein.

February 23, 2010 1:09 am

Dr. Ravetz
Thank you very much for the openness of your article. I don’t have time to read the comments above, but I do hope they have respected your request for politeness. After hearing you at the LSE, I bought the no-nonsense guide and sharpened my pencil to write in the margin. It was hardly used. One of the major dividing lines in discussions such as this is between those who ‘get’ systems thinking and those who don’t. The ideas that boundaries are defined by somebody (rather than nature or God), and that ‘every system requires a viewpoint’ seems to be very hard to accept. Piaget pointed out that most people don’t do abstract thinking, but this will be taken as dissing.
I do wonder at the overlap between your types of science and the Cynefin framework http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin ‘normal’ science treats the world as ordered, and amenable to sense-analyse-respond, while a complex domain responds to probes but does not offer causal explanations. This distinction can be framed in traditional scientific enquiry language, but loses in the translation. The meaning of quality assurance would be different in each domain I suspect.
http://tinyurl.com/ycsnsbz is a nice example of ‘why complexity makes things different’.
We are certainly playing for high stakes here. The future existence of Western scientific thought is not guaranteed, and there are plenty who would like to see it end. Just as I wouldn’t want greenpeace designing a dam up the valley from me, I have been extremely uneasy at the way that the Royal Society and other such pillars of science have become amateur unelected political lobbyists.

February 23, 2010 1:13 am

steven mosher (22:12:04) :
The usual alternative to science as a term for when uncertain data about the world (conductivity or whatever) meets human values is policy analysis.

February 23, 2010 1:58 am

Sorry but this is classic Ellsworth Toohey. Wears you down with its slippery niceness. Length does not equal clever, guys. Nor does the tone of sweet, yielding reasonableness mean that the underlying theory is not still dangerously extreme.

Chris Schoneveld
February 23, 2010 2:37 am

‘Never forget that you might be wrong’
That should also include the possibility that you might be wrong in adopting the Quaker approach. (smiley)

February 23, 2010 2:41 am

I bought a cooked chicken for lunch. I thought “Is it right that we humans kill animals to eat them? Are we depleting the world supply of chickens too fast? Are we accelerating a mutation that might become harmful? Are we contributing to the threat of viral diseases by maintaining a high global chicken population? Should we kill all present chickens except for a few in quarantine, until we have used the precautionary principle and developed a treatment for the dreaded avaian virus diseases that some have researched at great expense? What if the chicken thought like a Quaker or a greenie or a leftist or an AGW believer? Should we then afford special consideration? What experiments can we devise to determine if chickens have concepts of God or carbon footprints? Who should fund the research? How can it be made immune from data fabrication? What is scientific truth, if it does exist?”
Dozens of thoughts like this passed through my mind. There seemed to be no end to the complications.
………………….
This evening, having read your essay, I took an egg from the refrigerator, boiled it and ate it. Simple.
………………….,
http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii14/sherro_2008/Venerate.jpg?t=1266921532

Sreve (Paris)
February 23, 2010 3:04 am

This debate is fascinating but essentially sterile, in my view. Makes Bjorn Limborg’s reality check approach has true value in this respect. Abstract is a luxury we should all be thankfull for, but as an earlier post stressed visiting India or Africa makes the whole AGW seem a sideshow.

Sreve (Paris)
February 23, 2010 3:26 am

This debate is fascinating but essentially sterile, in my view. Makes Bjorn Limborg’s reality check approach has true value in this respect. Abstract is a luxury we should all be thankfull for, but as an earlier post stressed visiting India or Africa makes AGW
seem a sideshow.

TomVonk
February 23, 2010 3:32 am

Mr Ravetz
.
I do not know if you will read this thread but you should because the relevant and interesting content is about ten times the content of the original post .
The nice thing being that it is for free even if it would need some editing but then your post would need (much) editing too .
I would like to mention 3 points :
.
1)
Post Normal Science = Moral Relativism intersect Science
Nice formulation of a poster and nothing new under the sun . Like many posters said there is no special problem with Science be it pre or post modern .
There is a problem with Moral Relativism and if the intersection mentionned above increases , these problems are imported in Science too . Keep this intersection to a minimum and Science will thrive .
.
2)
The 2 by 2 table approach is a logical fallacy .
It is an interesting fallacy because it allows to interpret most of the post .
In statistical terms it would be the PC1 (the first principal component) 🙂
Basic physics and mathematics teach us that if we use 2 coordinates to represent a space , those coordinate must be independent . If they are not you miss almost the whole space .
Your coordinates are NOT independent .
As several posters mentionned , in high uncertainty about the system the stakes are unknown .
They may be high or low .
The artefact of creating 2 quadrants on a place where only one exists , namely highly uncertain stakes , focuses on irrational fears and the infamous “precaution principle” .
Opening this particular can of worms has nothing to do with science .
It has even a very perverse effect that the higher your ignorance about the system , the more nonsense you can tell about the HYPOTEHTICAL stakes .
.
3)
I am well familiar with the abuses of science by big government and big business; I confess that I find it difficult to imagine how environmentalists can wreak the same sort of damage.
This statement is very consistent with the 2 points above .
You are not only biased but actually as you admitted yourself , you do not WANT to work on your biases .
Yet it would be extremely easy and fast by looking at the REAL observable behaviours , facts and ideologies driving organisations like Greenpeace , WWF etc .
They can actually wreak a much bigger damage than governments or businesses because the latter are submitted to rules (elections , laws , taxes , regulations , audits etc) while the former are submitted to nothing even in theory .
This is a bothering issue because admitting to bias and not wanting to recognise it as such makes a poor advocacy for a philosophy of science which should be , at least in theory , as unbiased as possible .

Editor
February 23, 2010 3:42 am

First, Dr. Ravetz, thank you for your two essays. I commend you for your willingness to suffer the “slings and arrows”.
I suspect that I am the person you referred to who dissed you. You seem to think that this is something which is out of bounds. I’ll return to that question.
First, let me note that the people who are at the core of the destruction of climate science are people like Stephen Schneider who quote your work approvingly and act on the principles you espouse. They have noticed that you have defined a new set of ethical principles that apply in situations when we have “facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent”.
You seem totally oblivious to the obvious opportunity that this provides for people to manipulate the system. All you have to do is shout THE STAKES ARE HIGH!! THE DECISION HAS TO BE MADE TODAY!!! and presto, normal science no longer matters. Now we can say that “truth is no longer effective in science”, so we only need to worry about “quality”, whatever that is.
Here’s a quote about PNS:

More serious, why do we call this “science”? Many friends have told us that the idea is great, but the use of “science”, rather than “policy”, is misleading. For “science” is the sort of thing that happens down in the lower, safer zones of the diagram, where people do things in labs or on computers. The sorts of debates that lie in that wild, outer zone are not “science”, are they? I should say that when we reflected on that very reasonable criticism, we were confirmed in our choice. A good title must shock at least a little if it is to be noticed, and we think that the shock in this one is part of its message.

That’s you, Dr. Ravetz, explaining how rather than naming something for accuracy, you named it for shock value. Call me crazy, but I prefer honesty to shock value.
Here’s another quote:

To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.

Another man enamoured of shock value in preference to honesty. That’s Stephen Schneider, a core participant in the CRU scandal, good friends with Phil Jones and the rest, channelling you, Dr. Ravetz. Shock value and scary stories are more important than truth and accuracy. Why? Because we’re dealing with IMPORTANT STUFF here and time is short, and our poor public imagination can’t handle ‘PORTANT BIZNESS like that. So scientists have to lie to us in order to capture our imagination.
And surprise, surprise, following Schneider who was in total harmony with your ideas, Dr. Ravetz, that’s exactly what they did. They told scary stories. They exaggerated. They lied. They didn’t mention their doubts. They cheated. They fooled themselves and fooled the world into thinking that they were in the magical outer zone of your “quadrant-rainbow with two axes” where ’systems uncertainties’ and ‘decision stakes’ were so dang high that the old rules of science did not apply. And if they ever had any doubts about their actions, they had the theories of good Dr. Ravetz to show that they were right.
The death of climate science is not something that can be solved by applying the principles of post-normal science. It was caused by applying those principles. You claim that when faced with “facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent” we need something new … sorry, Dr. Ravetz, but we tried that, and we got the death of climate science.
It is precisely when “facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent” that we need plain old ordinary science the most. Just how high are the stakes in climate science? We do not have a scientific answer to that, we just have a bunch of fools screaming “THE SKY IS FALLING”. How urgent is action? Again, we have no scientific answer, just people screaming “WE HAVE TO ACT NOW”. Right then we need more and better science, not post normal anything.
You have put up a veritable fountain of words that has people convinced that if THE SKY IS FALLING and WE HAVE TO ACT NOW, we need to follow some new whiz-bang kind of Ravetzian science, post normal science … I call bullsh*t on that. When things are uncertain, we need more science, not less science, and certainly not post normal science with New! Improved Quality! to bleach our consciences whiter than white about lying to advance our noble cause.
I don’t want scientists who tell scary stories. I don’t care about quality. I am fatigued unto death with simple, dramatic statements. I am contemptuous of “scientists” who lard their pronouncements with “may” and “might” and “could”. In short, I’ve had it up to here with post normal science. I’ve seen the brave new world of PNS, and it sickens me. Post normal scientists like James Hansen have called for people like me to be put on trial for our scientific beliefs. I’ve been called more names than I care to mention because I believe in and fight for science.
Finally, I said I’d return to why I dissed you, and continue to do so. It’s not because your post-normal science has been “twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.” That could happen to anyone.
It is because, although to your credit you do a “mea culpa” about the things you didn’t see, you have not done what the lowliest true scientist would do – reexamine your claims to find out why and how they have led to such a catastrophic outcome. You see it as a personal failing, that you were fooled. And indeed, it was that.
But much more importantly, it points to a horrendous, huge problem with your theory of PNS. That problem you have not re-examined in the slightest. Indeed, you are here today to tell us again how your ideas are wonderful and we should read your book. Sorry, I’ll pass. I still bear the scars of your ideas, I have no need for more.
Your ideas are not wonderful, they are treacherous and hazardous. They supported and encouraged a corruption and a distortion of science that is unparalleled in modern history. They led to people justifying calling for trials of unbelievers like me, simply because we would not agree that THE STAKES ARE HIGH AND THE DECISION IS URGENT.
So yes, I diss you for that, and I will continue to do so until you notice what your foolish ideas have done. I don’t care that you were fooled, that’s your own psychodrama, please don’t bother me with it, that’s your business.
I do care that your ideas have proven to be very dangerous, that people have used them to justify a host of both anti-scientific and anti-social actions, and you still don’t seem to have noticed that. That’s scary.
Finally, your mantra about how PNS is needed when “facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent” is nonsense. Throw it in the trash. All that mantra describes is everyday life. Facts are rarely certain in the real world, values are almost always in dispute. People routinely claim that the stakes are high and we need an immediate decision. That’s not anything unusual at all. It doesn’t require throwing science out the window, quite the opposite. That’s life, everyday life, and science has been very successful in dealing with it for centuries.
All your foolish mantra has done is allow people to justify not using science when your mantra applies … which is all the time. You might profitably meditate on the implications of that, and come report back to us on what your meditations reveal. But please, don’t bother me with how you were fooled by the excesses of the climate “scientists”. Of course you were fooled, the people fooling you were following your own precepts, how could you not have been fooled by your own words? Spare me your mea culpas, and instead take a hard, clinical, dispassionate, and (dare I say) scientific look at your ideas to find out where they went wrong. Do that, and I’ll never diss you again.
I’m sorry to out you from your ivory closet in this rude and uncouth way, Dr. Ravetz, but your ideas have caused immense damage, and you need to deal with that before sailing off again on another philosophical flight.

February 23, 2010 3:45 am

steven mosher (14:35:55) :
“I think it is time to admit that many of the “Scientists” involved with promoting AGW do not “have the best of intentions.”
Where are the good intentions in email 887057295.txt ?
It has, for example, a paragraph –
“Faking up data here is very time-consuming. If UIUC have other fields apart from T and P for a full global grid but just not put them on the web site then fine, the problem is quite straightfoward. If not, then we have a messy problem on our hands.”
Surrounding this there are examples of false calculations, of sums that don’t add up, of data that should be qualified before use ….

Bob Kutz
February 23, 2010 3:48 am

And another thing; I AM SICK AND TIRED OF PEOPLE USING RELATIVITY TO JUSTFY DENIAL OF TRUTH. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
Relativity did not disprove Newton. Quite the contrary, it explained exactly why gravity works the way it does, given the existing conditions here on Earth. Relativity proved why Newton was right, at least here on Earth.
Relativity prescribes a very specific truth, dependent on the exact situation in which you exist. The fact that something appears differently, based on your relative perspective is in itself an object fact, and doesn’t change the facts surrounding the thing itself.
So I recomend that you see what all of this post-normal crap for what it is; justification for an ultra liberal agenda, in the absence of any facts indicating the necessity of the prescribed actions.
If the science and facts indicated that there was a real problem regarding AGW and CO2, I will guarantee you I would be on board, shouting it from the rooftops. As of this time; the science has been so badly mishandled that it is impossible to know. The alarmism coming from the pro-warmist side is the equivalent of chicken little, and they’ve done more damage to our knowledge at this point than good. The money they’ve wasted convoluting the science could have been better spent improving our knowledge, or even our sewer system, really.
Instead; we have ‘post normal science’ to show for the billions and billions of dollars we’ve spent. That is the real outrage.

Allan M
February 23, 2010 3:53 am

Gary Hladik (10:28:02) :
My head hurts.
I suspect a sort of dull ache which comes from banging said head against the cotton wool cocoon which has been spun around the bloodless weasel now inside which is fuelled by a wish to avoid the reality of human nature.
N.B. This is a post-modern sentence.
I just hate sophistry.

Jerzy Strzelecki
February 23, 2010 4:17 am

Dear Jerry
As your piece here “Answer and explanation to my critics” is not only about climmate related issues but mainly about the issue of the “nature of science” post Newton – Einstein shift and, maybe even more importantly, about your intellectual biopgraphy, I will permit myself to address an issue which is clearly important to you, but is completely outside ofr the “climate theme”.
Writing about your attitudes vis a vis different “issues” you said:
“If my own political bias has led me into trouble, I have the consolation that others are not immune. Thus we can understand much of background to the Credit Crunch (which may soon destroy us all) when we learn that Alan Greenspan was a devotee of Ayn Rand, and therefore believed, until it was too late, that the state is evil and the markets perfect.”
You may not want to study the subject, but the problem with this sentence is analogous to the problem you defined (when commenting on your reasons for not reading “The State of Fear”) as your “pro-Green” bias.
Why am I saying so? Because in the domain of the “Science of the Economic Crisis” here is a whole “set/body” of theory/literature on the subject which is treated exactly in the way “Sceptics” were treated until the recent event of Climategate in the domain of “Science of AGW”. Namely, there is a whole body of litertature – Ludwig von Mises, Friederich von Hayek, Max Weber, Murray Rothbard, Roger Garrison, Jesus Huerta de Soto, Jacques Rueff, Wilhelm Ropke (which you “falsly” subsume under the Ayn Rand Label) which argues that both the Great Depression and the present Economic Crisis (which may soon destroy us, as you wrote – and I fully agree with you) have their main source in the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve (and other central banks) and definitely not in any “shape or form” of “market failure”.
I would particularly recommend to you the book by the French economist Jacqus Rueff, a clasical liberal, definitely not of “Randian” persuasion, the original French title of which is “Le Peche Monataire de l”Ocident” (English title “The Monetary Sin of the West”). Rueff (in complete theoretical agreement with Mises Hayek and Ropke (or Robert Mundell, as a matter of fact)) argues in this book – quite persuasively, I find – that the Great Depression was caused by the failures of monetary olicies of western countries in he form of the Genua Conference “gold – exchange standard” (as opposed to classical gold standard of pre I WW times), the British return to gold at overvalued parity (oh, dear Churchill) and the monetary mistakes of the FED. He also argues – discussing the US policy in the late 60-ties that the departure of the US from the remains of the gold standard will cause the destruction of the Western Civilisation via the destruction of money due to money debasement rooted in the fact that the central reserve currency will not have any anchor (as gold), which must result in “deficits without “tears”, budgetary deficits and inflation. I really reccommend this book to you.
The issue is not “belief” in markts, but a careful study of institutions. It is clear that the “mortgage generating institutions” on the American real estate market sending the “pizza vendors” to sell cheap mortgage loans is not a picture of “self regulating” market, but a picture of a market run amok without any, or no t much, regad for the consequences. This is wahat Greenspan did not expect – and you seem to ant to bask in the “sun-shade” of his illusion/mistake.
But his illusion/mistake is purely ideological, as you will undoubtedly discover with your precise mathematical mind – upon studying the subject in more depth if you bask yourself the question “And what could be the effects of the interest rate policy producing the lowest interest rates in history, actually negative in real terms?” I ecommend here Jacques Rueff, Jesus Huerta De Soto and Thomas Sowell “Housing Boom and Bust” in particular).
The Greenspan “admission fault” is purely ideological, my dear Jerry. A pure case of “false conscioussnes”, the term you must understand given your “ideological” background. What he really does in his famous statement about his “mistaken belief in the market” is to admit to a mistake in his belief in the market in order to exculpate/save himself and the FED from the mistakes in their policies. To use an East European Metaphor, what he is really saying in this statement is: “Socialism (the FED) is OK, comrades. The System is fine. There is no need for a “Perestroyka”. It is the citizens (the Market) who are to blame.” This way it is the market that is at fault, not the FED policies. And Greenspan can bask in the glory of “Maestro” whom was “cheated” by the market.
Why Am I writing all this? Because it so happens that having been born in communist Poland just 1 year after the death of Joseph Stalin in a family with anticommunist democratic socialist tradition, having spend most of my life in Poland (which gave me quite a substantial experience of communism), and having been a witness to the Solidarność movement, I decided to devote myself to the understanding of the roots of failure of the communist economist system. And also to the understanding of the Great Depression, the main source of he “delegitimisation of the market order in the XX century. Or, epistemlogically speaking, the roots of failure of the communist system are analogous to the roots of the previous and present crisis – the arrogance of central planning. In one case of the whole economy, in the second – of the interest rate. (Mises and Rothbard recommended).
And because You seem to be such a honest guy I decided to write to you. With the hope, I admit, that if you are such a honest guy who was able to “see the light” on the issue of Climategate/AGW, you are also able to see light in the debate about the present economic crisis.
And maybe the entire state/market debate. But to understand this issue you would have to read “Oriental Despotism” by Karl August Wittfogel.
Best Regards
Jerzy Strzelecki
Sociologist, Investment Banker
Amateur AGW student
Warsaw, Poland

Allan M
February 23, 2010 4:23 am

“facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent”.
But then we don’t want hysterics making the decisions.
Willis Eschenbach (03:42:26) :
I do care that your ideas have proven to be very dangerous, that people have used them to justify a host of both anti-scientific and anti-social actions, and you still don’t seem to have noticed that. That’s scary.
The Oozlum bird, also spelled Ouzelum, is a legendary creature found in Australian and British folk tales and legends. Some versions have it that, when startled, the bird will take off and fly around in ever-decreasing circles until it manages to fly up itself, disappearing completely, which adds to its rarity. Other sources state that the bird flies backwards so that it can admire its own beautiful tail feathers, or because while it does not know where it is going, it likes to know where it has been. (from Wikipedia)

David Alan Evans
February 23, 2010 4:41 am

At a simple level, yes you learn of one & only one solution to a problem. As you pass through education you are taught the truth that there may be more than one solution but only one optimal solution.
Still later, you are brought to the realisation that the optimal solution can change with time & may be different tomorrow.
I don’t know if this method of teaching is correct but it seemed to work.
Your dam analogy is a little off in my opinion. Science/engineering has a voice yes but ultimately the decisions regarding such a project are outside the realms of science, they are purely political & scientists/engineers have no voice there, (or at least they shouldn’t except in their rôle as citizens.)

Now ‘participation’ is enshrined as a principle of policy formation in the European Union, and in many special policy areas in the USA.

Are you living in the same EU as I am? Or even the same planet?
I’ll have to re-read & think about this a little more.
DaveE.

Richard M
February 23, 2010 5:09 am

When I got here I knew I was going to have problems.
now that Truth is no longer effective in science …
I skimmed the rest and read over a few posts. As a result I’m sure I’m repeating what others have said.
Ravetz simply does not understand science. It not a search for an absolute truth and never has been. It has always been about finding the best match for the available data. This is exactly what Newton did. The fact that Einstein produced an extension to Newton’s theories did not invalidate them, it just improved them.
To paraphrase Hawking … science is replacing one bad theory with one slightly less bad.
It appears to me that Ravetz does not understand this is how science works. As a result he tries to provide a framework where the truth is not even an end goal. Wrong! The goal always has to be the truth. The fact that absolute truth not often attained is irrelevant. It’s a step in the right direction. Accepting anything less will only slow down scientific progress.
The other part of this piece is nothing new. Politics and society has always had it’s affect on science. From Church doctrines to shaman to human sacrifices. This is nothing new. They will continue to influence future human scientific endeavors also. However, it is wrong to then say this is good. It is not. It just slows down science. We don’t need a framework to slow down science, we just need to recognize that it will happen and try our best to recognize this. And, when it does happens, work to eliminate it.
All we can do is keep trying to do real science the best way possible.